Thursday 23 May 2019

'Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie'

David Medcalf - Medders at Large

If you want to see this grown man cry, bring him to a Paul Simon concert. When the stellar songsmith came on to the stage at the RDS the other night I found myself blubbing - and I cannot quite tell you why.

He started the night's entertainment with 'America' and it reduced me to a sodden heap. Her Majesty the mother-in-law was not much better, also dissolving at the sight of the diminutive musician from New Jersey. Sat between us, all Hermione could do was pass the handkerchiefs and offer comforting pats on the back. Here was a reminder that the loved one is really very young, not quite of the Simon and Garfunkel generation. This farewell 'Going Home' tour was our last opportunity to witness a performer who has been part of the sound-track to the lives of that older generation for more than half a century. Maybe a feeling that an era - our era - was ending heightened the emotion of the occasion.

Anyone in the English speaking world of sound mind aged in their sixties or early seventies cannot reasonably claim to be unaware of Paul Simon. We have every last one of us sat through end of night sing-songs where 'The Boxer' was put through the mangle. Time beyond number we would forget the words and cut to the chorus - 'Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie'. Here in Ballsbridge was another chance to join in 'Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie' but this time under the command of the great man himself and in all the right places for once. Small wonder some of us were on the verge of tears, the sentimental mood further heightened by the fact that the Simon voice was less than perfect on that opening number.

He perked up considerably thereafter but definitely failed to hit all the notes quite right as he wavered 'You said the man in the gabardine suit was a spy. I said be careful, his bow-tie is really a camera.' Those are mystically inspired lines I have been singing to myself since a teenager and now I was hearing them from the person who invented them. Another tissue please, dearest.

Never mind that we, and all of the other punters assembled at this Dublin rugby ground, had shelled out considerable sums to bolster the Paul Simon pension fund for the privilege of being present. The hefty ticket price did not make it any less of a privilege.

We three were among the fortunate ones sitting comparatively close to the stage for a concert attended by (at a guess) around 10,000 people. By dint of rising early and camping for hours on the internet, Hermione contrived to secure places in Row 30. That's gimme range for Jonny Sexton when he lines up a penalty kick here at the RDS. Many in the audience were scrumming it, or slumming it, in the standing room only corral beyond the half way line while others peered from remote spots in the stands. Yet even in Row 30, it was much easier to follow the action on the two giant screens rather than watching the real thing.

Either way, the sound system was magnificent while the musicians assembled to back the centre of all this far off attention were abundantly talented and immaculately rehearsed. 'Going Home' was two hours of high class showbiz.

The dynamics of playing to 10,000 is challenging, impossible to please all the people all the time. Her Majesty, for instance, came looking for a greatest hits play-list, delivered as per the original recordings. Medders sought some added insight into the man himself as he is in older age.

So it was that we differed in the reception given to the classic 'Bridge Over Troubled Water'. Introducing the song, Paul Simon pointed out that he was the one who wrote it, while acknowledging that everyone remembers it for the vocals of his former partner - Arty as he called him. As he set out to put his own mark on 'Bridge Over Troubled Water' with his less than sublime voice, Simon lost his grip on the mother-in-law but held the more forgiving attention of her son-in-law. A lesser known number with one of the longest titles in pop music - 'René and Georgette Magritte with Their Dog After the War' - prompted a mass exodus for the beer and prosecco stalls.

At least we could all come alive together again in unison 'Lie la lie, lie la la la lie lie' for the finale. We started crying and finished smiling.

Wexford People

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