Paul Simon, Hyde Park, London
Twenty-five years ago, with South Africa still in the wretched grip of apartheid, Paul Simon brought the musicians he collaborated with on Graceland to a London stage. That Royal Albert Hall gig was beset by protest at Simon’s breaking of the South African cultural boycott.
The debate about whether his work with South Africa’s best black musicians was justified continues, as the recent documentary Under African Skies proved. But a quarter of a century’s breathing room has led everyone to agree on one thing - Graceland is a masterpiece.
Which is why the announcement that Simon was bringing many of the ensemble who created the album to Hyde Park was greeted with joy, rather than hand-wringing.
Tonight - perhaps wary of the curfew that struck Bruce Springsteen the previous night – he arrives on stage early, playing non-Graceland hits such as “Kodachrome” and “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover”. His slight demeanour only gives a clue as to the ambition of the evening.
The first tell is a guest spot from Jimmy Cliff. He takes over from Simon for “The Harder They Come”, “Many Rivers to Cross” and a version of “Vietnam”, which soon merges into “Mother and Child Reunion” (which Simon recorded with Cliff’s backing band).
More hits (“Me and Julio…”, “Slip Slidin’ Away”) follow, before the Graceland reunion is set in swing by the arrival of Ladysmith Black Mambazo, whose signature co-ordinated kicks and vocal swandives punctuate their own “Nomathemba” and Graceland’s “Homeless”.
The Graceland band, featuring the glorious bass of Bakithi Kumalo and Ray Phiri’s guitar, then powered through much of the album before Hugh Masekela arrives on stage. His powerful lament, “Stimela” and “ Bring Him Back Home (Nelson Mandela)” serving as a reminder of the true context of the Graceland controversy.
After the last of these guest breaks, Simon returns for “Gumboots”, “Graceland” and the first song to really bring to crowd to life – “You Can Call Me Al”. It’s all unfathomably tight. The only criticism – and it’s a harsh one – is that Simon’s light tone just can’t compete with the other singers. It would have been nice too to have heard Graceland in order, maybe.
If Simon had been slightly upstaged by some of his guests he made up for it with a one-man encore of “The Sound of Silence” that reduced the 60,000-odd crowd to a fitting hush.
There are almost too many elements to take in to consider as a single concert – it’s more a rolling Afropop revue than a headline set, but this was fitting swansong for a great album, nevertheless.
Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challengeTV
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Saudi preacher who 'raped and tortured' his five -year-old daughter to death is released after paying 'blood money'
- 2 Russian girl takes her own life after parents find pornography on her computer
- 3 Kim Kardashian on Bruce Jenner's 'story': 'We support him no matter what, and I think when the time is right, he'll talk'
- 4 Ball pool for adults opens in London
- 5 Amal Clooney gives excellent response to fashion question at European Court of Human Rights
The Jump 2015 line-up: Joey Essex, Mike Tindall, Jodie Kidd and co take to the slopes
Game of Thrones: Grey Worm actor Jacob Anderson is all for more male nudity – as long as he can keep his clothes on
Roald Dahl letter warning student to 'eschew beastly adjectives' goes viral 35 years later
Churchill: The Nation's Farewell, TV review: Paxman reveals truth behind crane docker tribute, but delivers a fitting honour to Winston
Read Tom DeLonge's open letter about Blink 182 split: 'Our relationship got poisoned'
9 reasons Greece's experiment with the radical left is doomed to failure
'We would evict Queen from Buckingham Palace and allocate her council house,' say Greens
Greece elections: Syriza and EU on collision course after election win for left-wing party
Have we reached 'peak food'? Shortages loom as global production rates slow
British Muslim school children suffering a backlash of abuse following Paris attacks
British grandmother Lindsay Sandiford faces execution by firing squad in Indonesia