Paul Simon Delivers Career-Spanning Set at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica

If singer-songwriter Paul Simon had hung it up after the folk-rock duo Simon & Garfunkel disbanded in 1970, his legacy would’ve been intact. One of the best-selling acts of the ’60s, Simon & Garfunkel, who were inducted into the Rock Hall in 1990, embodied the counterculture era as much someone like Dylan did.

Simon, of course, would go on to have a very successful solo career that found him embracing world music with his best-selling 1986 album Graceland. He was inducted into the Rock Hall as a solo artist in 2001.

Last night before a capacity crowd at Jacobs Pavilion at Nautica, Simon, 75, provided an overview of his lengthy career. With a little help from a terrific 7-piece band that included local Jamey Haddad on percussion, he capably revisited Simon & Garfunkel hits and a wide range of his solo material. You can see a slideshow of photos from the concert here.

Wearing blue jeans and sneakers, the diminutive singer and guitarist had a collegiate look about him and even acted a bit like a seasoned professor. When one patron yelled out a request for a song, he simply said, “I don’t take requests” and then calmly told a story about how one woman once asked him to play “the Lion King song.” “I don’t even think there is a Lion King song,” he quipped. “So much for fame.”

Simon began his set with the shimmering “The Boy in the Bubble” and then practically rapped his way through “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover” before encouraging audience members to dance as he broke into a shuffle during the middle of “That Was Your Mother,” a song that had a zydeco feel with its washboard percussion and bluesy guitar riffs.

The lilting “Rewrite” brought the tempo down a notch, but a series of hits, including a jazzy rendition of “America,” a reggae-fied “Mother and Child Reunion” and the rollicking “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard,” which even included a reprise, had the audience on its feet.

The two-hour set then hit a bit of a lull as Simon and Co. played the somber “Spirit Voices,” a song he prefaced with stories about his trips to the Amazon to see a healer, and the ballad “Stranger to Stranger,” the title track of his latest album. An instrumental rendition of “El Condor Pasa (If I Could)” segued into “Duncan,” a tune that made use of flute and sounded like a Peruvian jazz number.

Simon got back on track “My Little Town,” a song that had a real swagger to it thanks to a beefy guitar riff that made it rock much harder than the studio version, and he turned in rousing renditions of “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” and "You Can Call Me Al." As the band jammed at the conclusion of "Diamonds," Simon literally stepped out of the spotlight to admire the group's skills.

During two encores, Simon delivered hits such as "Graceland,” “The Boxer” and “Still Crazy After All These Years” before concluding with “The Sound of Silence.” His voice, which still sounds sharp after these years even though he doesn't really try to reach for the high notes, resonated on the final track, which silenced the crowd that had been rocking and reeling throughout the 25-song set and brought the show to a solemn end.