The unparalleled Paul Simon bids a perfect farewell at British Summer Time 2018
British Summer Time brought together an eclectic mix of people for another sensational end to a weekend of music, dancing, sun and good vibes at London’s Hyde Park. The Sunday set included Paul Simon’s farewell tour, Homeward Bound, as the legendary singer-songwriter – one of 100 People Who Shaped The World according to Time – said goodbye to the stage at 76 years of age, celebrating six decades of great music and no less than sixteen Grammy awards.
Fans of all ages gathered for the evening set of artists and activists from a time in which musicians were not only famed for – but encouraged to – possess an opinion that challenged the increasingly controlled system. Bonnie Raitt appeared on stage as an iconic woman who broke through the tough monotony of men and guitars by appearing in the Rolling Stone magazine’s list of 100 Greatest Guitarists of All Time.
The blues artist, whose unique blend of folk and country blues won her 10 Grammy awards, opened the show with Love Letter and Need You Tonight. Commenting on how lucky she feels to be in this position when there are many women who are still denied their rights, the vocalist performed an acoustic version of Angel from Montgomery and the Talking Heads cover of Burning Down the House.
Next on stage was singer-songwriter James Taylor, who began with Carolina In My Mind and Country Road, singing his famous hits along with everybody’s favourites You’ve Got A Friend – a rendition of the classic song by Carole King – and Fire and Rain. The musician commented on “that man” who has come to represent the US but who is “not America”, proclaiming that “America is big… and America is coming back!” to a thundering round of applause. Though lacking in energy, the ballads were received well by a large crowd who sang along to many of the numbers.
Andrea Zonn on the fiddle was the life of this party, accompanying other members of Taylor’s All-Star Band – including Steve Gadd on drums, Michael Landau on guitar and Lou Marini on a variety of wind instruments – as they performed songs such as Something in the Way She Moves and How Sweet Is It.
The multi-Grammy award-winning folk-rock singer-songwriter ended his set with a tribute to Martin Luther King in Shed a Little Light, which was accompanied by Katie Markowitz and Arnold Mcculler on vocals.
The undisputedly phenomenal Simon then came to reclaim the stage, the man of elegies emotionally declaring the satisfaction in reclaiming his “lost child” Bridge Over Troubled Water: “It feels good to have it back.”
The performer’s blend of powerfully sombre lyrics with the dancing rhythms of Afrobeat is what has made him an outstanding artist, gifting the world with the timeless album Graceland – one of his three compilations to have been given the accredited title Album of the Year.
Thanking the audience for their support, the singer – who is a great communicator and a reputably honest presence – explained that he feels “privileged” and suggested that the songs of his which most people “will probably know” were written as “rhythm tunes, which means ‘to be danced to.’” The show began with the song America from his days as the duo Simon and Garfunkel. 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover mesmerised a tightly crammed arena as the cherished icon bade farewell to the stage which has evidently loved him for many thrilling decades.
After the sad passing of Vincent Nguini, Nigerian guitarist Biodun Kuti was a flawless replacement, joining multi-instrumentalists James Haddad, Mark Stewart and Jim Oblon on stage beside the yMusic ensemble, who had their moment in Rene and Georgette Magritte With Their Dog After the War.
The flow of the powerful lyrics and the dancing beats were kept up for the length of 26 songs, covering just about all the favourites with multiple encores consisting of the greatest hits Diamonds on the Souls of her Shoes, You Can Call Me Al and Graceland. One track followed another until finally Simon was left alone on the stage with an acoustic guitar for The Sound of Silence, which beautifully closed the night, bringing the weekend to an emotional end.
Photo: Jessica Gilbert
For further information and future events visit Paul Simon’s website here.
Watch the video for You Can Call Me Al here: