Paul Simon

Pimp My Lent/Day 39

The Prompt:

From hometown buddy Roxanne Romero Perdue…

Roxie writes:  “When I was young I really didn’t understand the ideas of live concerts – I naively thought that a live concert with people yakking and taking away from the brilliance of a performance – YUK. 

But then…  I was in love with Billy Joel. I had several of his albums and when I came into possession of “Songs from the Attic” I thought .. no way. This is a “live” album – yuk and it’s going to piss me off if I can’t hear him. But as I read the liner notes, he explained that several of the songs he had written just weren’t meant for a recording studio. They were meant to play in big arenas or small smokey clubs or other types of venues where the audience was a key part of the performance. And it piqued my interest. A singer who wanted to portray the songs in the environment they were meant to be heard. So, Miami 2017 is a live recording in one of his giant concerts and it is still one of the best renditions I’ve ever heard – noise and all. Everybody Loves You Now is a small smokey club in Long Island. They’re amazing performances and I finally I understood what the concert environment could provide. And fell more in love with his voice, his poetry and ultimately more deeply in love with music in general. 

So now, every concert I attend has to live up to Songs in the Attic – every artist has an opportunity to bring to life a piece of their soul to an audience that is starved for that little piece of perfection.”

The Product:

Roxie’s story about the transformative power of music was so close to something I’d experienced in my own life, a story that I’ve told enough times, but never sat and written it all down.  How nice to relive it all again.

I didn’t want to go see Paul Simon in concert. His music was okay, it just wasn’t “my thing.”

But I fell in love with a man who, after much coercion, agreed to marry me for better or worse, and God bless him, he’s stuck to it. This man is a great fan of Mr. Simon’s music, especially “Graceland,” and so, back when the “Rhythm of the Saints” tour came to Dallas in the early 1990s, Mark got tickets and I agreed to go along.

So we’re in the old Reunion Arena, the one that’s now a beautiful vacant lot, sitting in the seats that we can afford. Forget nosebleeds, we’re up too high for that. Still, we can see that the stage is huge and full of drum sets, a regular United Nations of percussion. (Hence the name, “Rhythm of the Saints.”) The drummers enter first, the lights come up and we are soon enough in another world.

Unlike any big concert that I’ve ever been to, there is nothing manufactured here. There is this one little Jewish guy with a guitar and a voice, barely visible to us from our seats on the moon, and yet, we’re right there and he is singing to us. I am swept up in the music, caught. Mr. Simon’s gift and the deftness at which he shares it says “Here’s God. Here’s proof of the existence of something greater than us. Through this man, in this moment, the Creator Spirit that “lives and moves” and has being is present.”

I am in pieces, shattered, then put back together, and then shattered and recreated again.

Trumpets:  Bom, bom, bom, BOM! Bom, bom, bom, BOM! And the Veri-lights, robotic stage lights, are perfectly choreographed to each beat, and Mr. Simon and the band launch into

If you’ll be my bodyguard/I can be your long-lost pal

At the end of the song, the ovation goes on so long that Mr. Simon finally busts up laughing and shouts, “Well, if you like it that much, we’ll just DO IT AGAIN!” And the lights are reset and the horns are going Bom, bom, bom, BOM! and they do it! They play the entire song, all over again. The arena is alive, lights and music, rhythm, movement, sound, and the audience, we are right there in it, all of us, laughing, delighted, dancing and it is amazing to be so connected, all of us, all around us, connected through this one man in the center, energy rooted deep in the earth and stretching up into the heavens.

All this, and not even a beer between us. Not one beer. No ambient pot smoke, either. We were a hundred percent, soberly alive.

At the end of the concert, Mr. Simon got a deserved, enthusiastic encore, and then another. He said, “As it turns out, some friends of mine are here in town, so ” and that’s when I lose my mind. I am on my feet screaming like he is Paul, George, Ringo, and John because I knew who was in town. “It’s them!”  I scream as Paul Simon gestures towards stage right and here they come, sliding, dancing and singing as they came out on stage in a graceful, fluid line: the legendary Ladysmith Black Mambazo, the South African musicians featured on “Graceland.”

She’s a rich girl/She don’t try to hide it/Diamonds on the soles of her shoes

He’s a poor boy/Empty as a pocket/Empty as a pocket with nothing to lose

The ovation was incredible. It was frenzied. I think it was the fourth encore when I turned to Mark and shouted over the applause and cheering, “How’s he ever going to get us to leave?”

Masterfully as ever, as it turns out.

At the end, it was just Paul Simon on stage with his acoustic guitar, singing one last quiet song, singing to us like we’d all dropped by his place for dinnerand it was now time to go. He thanked us, bid us goodnight, and then left.

Blessed when it happened, blessed in the retelling.

The Light, see, it shines on in the darkness. And the darkness can’t touch it.


About Vicki Caroline Cheatwood

Writerly. Rebooting. Evolving. Searching for great chicken salad.
This entry was posted in Pimp My Lent, Writing. Bookmark the permalink.

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