Paul Simon’s Live Surprise

Vacation, Friday night. There must be some live music around here. Oh, Paul Simon in Burlington. That sounds good. Bought a single ticket the night before the show and got dead center last row before the soundboard. A perfect seat for this event. Although most of the audience was sitting down the whole night, I could stand and dance without bothering anybody.
I’d never been to the Champlain Valley Exposition, in Essex Junction, VT (one exit north of Burlington). It’s a farm fair summer venue, and as these things go, it’s not too shabby.

It doesn’t have the luxe that SPAC offers, but it’s a big step up from a hockey rink. Outdoors in the cool night air of Vermont, high-quality lights and sound, with birds flying above and a light breeze, world-class musicians, a fine performance in a beautiful setting.

It’s good to go to a non-Jamband concert every once in a while to see how the other half dances. Before the gates opened I asked a ticket taker, “What are the rules?” She said, “Rules??” I replied, “You know, can we bring in water bottles, cameras, food, or backpacks? What about beach balls, glow sticks, and laser pointers?” She said, “No one has told me about any rules, normally you just walk in.” This got an eyebrow raise out of me—maybe she hasn’t been told, but usually there are rules.
But it turns out she was right: No apparent rules! No pack search! No body search! There wasn’t even anyone there to check my backpack or pat me down. They tore my ticket and I walked in.
Of course, there were rules, they just didn’t announce any of them in advance. For instance, right after I took this picture:

An usher walked over and said, “The artist has requested no photos of any kind.” Oh, okay. I know what they’re really trying to prevent are flashes, and people with cameras acting like killjoys to people just trying to enjoy the show. It’s unfortunate that the only way to avoid those two bad behaviors is to ban all forms of the behavior. I know how to set my flash to ‘off’ and I only take a few pictures a set. But, as we know, rules are rules, (unless you’re the President).
Here’s my annotated setlist:
* Gumshoes
* Boy In The Bubble
* Slip Sliding Away—Very dark and slow and smokey.
* You’re The One—Nature gives us shapeless shapes, Clouds and waves and flame. But human expectation, Is that love remains the same. And when it doesn’t, We point our fingers, And blame blame blame.
* Me & Julio
* How Can You Live In The Northeast—Weak as the winter sun, we enter life on earth. Names and religion comes just after date of birth. Then everybody gets a tongue to speak, And everyone hears an inner voice. A day at the end of the week to wonder and rejoice.
* Mrs. Robinson
* Love Me Like A Rock—[I note here that this show is very song-oriented, which is a departure from the Jamband scene, where they, well, jam more.]
* That Was Your Mother—Along come a young girl, She’s pretty as a prayerbook. Sweet as an apple on christmas day. I said good gracious can this be my luck? If that’s my prayerbook, Lord let us pray.
* Duncan
* Graceland—And she said losing love, Is like a window in your heart. Everybody sees you’re blown apart. Everybody sees the wind blow.
* Father & Daughter
* Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes
* Still Crazy After All These Years
* Cecilia
At this point we were headed for the encores, and I decided to take another photo.

First encores:
* You Can Call Me Al—A man walks down the street, He says why am i soft in the middle now, Why am I soft in the middle, The rest of my life is so hard. I need a photo-opportunity. I want a shot at redemption. Don’t want to end up a cartoon, In a cartoon graveyard.
* The Only Boy Living in New York
* The Boxer
Second encores:
* Wartime Prayer—I’m trying to tap into some wisdom, Even a little drop will do. I want to rid my heart of envy, And cleanse my soul of rage, Before I’m through.
* Bridge Over Troubled Water—Sail on silver girl, sail on by. Your time has come to shine, and all your dreams will run their way. See how they shine, oh, if you need a friend, I’m sailing right behind
At the end of the show a solid 10 minute firework display.

The promoter of this show is a friend of mine. I saw him and his wife backstage before and after the show, and unfortunately only 4,000 attended. The capacity was something like 13,000, so they took a bath; very unfortunate. The promoter puts up the financial guarantee for the artist, rents the facility, hires the stage and security, etc. They earn out based on ticket sales. In this case, it’s possible they wrote a very big check so that Paul Simon could play for the first time in Vermont. Since the show was a Friday night, I’m assuming the $80/$50 ticket prices were the deciding factor.
And he told me that, yes, there would be entrance searches for the upcoming Phil show Wednesday. So there you have it, audience profiling and discrimination even right here in Vermont.
The big surprise for me was that Simon only played three songs from the new album, Surprise. I love Surprise, so I was surprised to read in a review from an earlier show in Montreal:

If there were lulls in last night’s set list, they came with three songs from Simon’s recent disc, the disappointing Surprise. In future years, it’s hard to imagine any of that album’s songs staying on the set list.

We’ll see about that. Certainly there aren’t the dance numbers that Rhythm of the Saints had (a career peak work of his). But both You’re The One and Surprise were critically panned when I think they’re very thoughtful and contemplative albums.
The local show review was favorable, save for the fact that the author has no friggin’ clue about how sound reinforcement works:

Why do some touring acts (including Simon) postion the key sound-mix decision-makers onstage, where they don’t have a prayer of hearing what the crowd is hearing?

Uh, dude, check it out: There’s this big white tent in the middle of the floor in the audience? It’s called the “soundboard.” And the guy there, in the middle of the audience, is mixing the “house sound.” He controls what you hear. What you see on stage is the “monitor mixer,” who provides an individual stereo mix for each of the on-stage musicians. He’s on the side of the stage so they can yell over, or point, to make something louder or softer. He’s got nothing to do with the sound in the hall.
Sheesh, editors, please fact-check. Or use Google. Are you trying to emulate bloggers or something?