Paul Simon Poetically Greets Maui with Music of Generations
By Wendy Osher
The near full moon and rolling clouds set behind a silhouette of palms seemed to capture the gentle and poetic nature of lyrics carefully crafted over the years by legendary singer and songwriter Paul Simon.
The musician, known for his lyrical savvy, shared a repertoire of music that began with the lyrics “The first thing I remember” from his popular 1980 hit “Late in the Evening.”
The night featured favorites from a sustained musical career that has spanned generations. Fans of Simon’s early career with Garfunkel were treated to a backstory on the creation of the song “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” “Some songs come through you as a conduit. It would be yours, but not yours,” explained Simon who wrote the song when he was just 28. “Artie would sing it… then Aretha Franklin. Tonight I’m taking it back,” he said.
His eclectic lyricism is apparent and crafted like a well placed puzzle as illustrated in “Graceland”: “The Mississippi Delta was shining like a National guitar; I am following the river, Down the highway, Through the cradle of the civil war.”
His creative process is organic and in the case of “René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog after the War” the title came before the actual song. Simon explained that he was going to a festival in Northern California that Joan Baez was at. He pulled a book off her shelf and happened upon a photo of the surrealist painter with his wife and dog, and thought, “What a great title of a song.” In writing it, he brought the styling of vocal groups like The Penguins, The Five Satins and other doo-wop and R&B groups of the time, “And that’s how this song came to be,” Simon explained.
Simon also performed a handful of hits from his 1986 album Graceland and several signature pieces from his 1990 album Rhythm of The Saints, featuring accompaniment by west African guitar player Biodun Kuti from Nigeria and back up from a 14 piece band which included horns, strings and percussion.
In a polite, yet encouraging tone, Simon said, “If you feel like dancing please be my guest, but keep in mind that the people behind you may disagree… I don’t mind,” he said with a smile.
The casual concert served as a fundraiser for the Auwahi Forest Restoration Project and Kua‘āina Ulu ‘Auamo–two local organizations dedicated to environmental welfare and to preserving species biodiversity in Hawai‘i. “Mahalo for supporting the causes we are championing this evening,” Simon said to the packed crowd gathered at the Amphitheater and Yokouchi Pavilion.
During a short set, Simon also welcomed friend and special guest, Keola Beamer to the stage. The multi-nominated Grammy slack-key musician sang a “Seabreeze” duet with Simon and exited with the iconic “Honolulu City Lights.” Beamer called the composition “a song about you, about me, about the people that love Hawaiʻi,” Simon included, who now owns a home on Maui.
Simon is set to perform again tonight for the second of two concerts at the Maui Arts & Cultural Center. The Maui concerts are the only ones Simon has planned in Hawaiʻi and mark the first Hawaiʻi shows since Simon & Garfunkel appeared at the Blaisdell Arena more than 50 years ago.
In two hours and 20 songs, Simon traveled back in time to his 1964 album Wednesday Morning 3 A.M., ending the concert with a greeting… “Hello Darkness.” “Thank you so much I am so happy to be here,” said Simon as he exited the stage.