Saturday, November 04, 2006


The Sound of Simon

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching one of my musical heroes, Paul Simon, in action live at the Manchester Evening News Arena. And I will amuse fellow fans, and probably bore everyone else, by waxing lyrical about it now.

I’ve been a fan of Paul Simon since I stole my Dad’s vinyl copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water when I was about 12. From Simon and Garfunkel I progressed to Paul’s solo work, and this was the third time I’d seen him live.

I’m not quite an obsessive fan, but I’m certainly keen, and having checked for tour dates at work every day for a year, I was extremely disappointed to discover that they had been announced, and gone on sale, on the one Friday that I decided to take off… Still, thank the Lord for Ebay, and my own lack of financial common sense, as I bagged a pair of 7th row seats for a sizeable mark-up. The deposit for the house can wait a little longer...

So we were pretty close, which was a necessity given the cavernous and utterly atmosphere-less hole that is the MEN Arena. Sitting at the back of that place is like sticking on a CD and watching a microscopic stick figure sing a song in the distance. And I know this from bitter experience. I saw REM there once from a distance of about 2 miles. Or at least, I think it was them.

It was a pleasant surprise to discover that I wasn’t the youngest person in the crowd. Previously I’d felt like I’d entered my Father’s school reunion at gigs like this. In fact, I once went with my Mum to see Art Grafunkel, and could’ve sworn that not only was I the youngest person there, but that Mum was the second youngest! But tonight there were some youngsters amongst his fans from the early days.

After a quiet introduction, Paul played an up-tempo number, and lots of people got up and danced towards the front. Normally on such occasions, the tempo is switched back down to mournful introspection and the crowd return to their seats. But not tonight. For some reason they stayed stood up at the front, and I wasn’t going to miss the opportunity to join a 50 strong throng only feet from the man himself… So, from seven rows back I made it right to the front, and spent the next dozen songs in my own version of “Jim’ll Fix It,” having one of my dreams come true and having Paul Simon play a virtual greatest hits show only inches from my increasingly slackening jaw. At one point I looked around at the hardcore fans who were already all mad enough to either get up at the crack of dawn to get front-section tickets, or to pay top rates to buy them off Ebay, and they all had the same expression of wide-eyed amazement as me. I doubt anyone’s been closer to their idol at a big gig for quite some time!

Unfortunately, the fun was not to last. A special mention must go at this point to the MEN Security staff, a more joyless bunch of individuals I have never previously encountered. Most of the people at the very front were middle-aged men who were about as threatening to Paul Simon as his microphone stand, and yet we were all shoved back to our seats by a phalanx of yellow-blazer-wearing jobsworths whose sole function is seemingly to snuff out any fun that may be going on.

I have encountered them on many occasions, and been annoyed by their immovable attitudes, smug superiority and downright rudeness on virtually every occasion. Ask them to help and they are only to happy to ignore. But stand up and dance around and they will take delight in removing you.

Still, at least I was only shoved back 7 rows.

It was a moving experience, all said and done. It’s been an emotional week, and some of Paul Simon’s songs are the perfect antidote to the sadness. In fact, listening to his back catalogue will find the right words for just about every human situation going. It’s a bit trite to say so, I know, but I’m high on the energy of the concert, so forgive me that!

The man’s 65 and may not tour again, so I’m glad I got the chance to see him again. I’d go again if I could. And if anyone gets the chance, take it! I have uploaded some photos as well, should you need a visual aid to convince you!

A lovely evening.


Aha!!! I wondered where my copy of Bridge Over Troubled Water had got to!
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