Paul Simon performs timeless set at Red Rocks

Jonny Rhein

Paul Simon performed at Red Rocks Amphitheater Wednesday night, and it is safe to say he has still got it.

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Paul Simon at Red Rocks Amphitheater Photo credit: Jonny Rhein

The night could not have been better for an outdoor show at one the country’s most renowned concert venues.

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“Hello there, friends,” Simon said. “Could not have asked for a more beautiful night.”

He shifted the audience’s attention to the moon shining in clear sight over the amphitheater.

Simon let his band do most of the work while he sometimes sang with his guitar hanging idly. Simon conducted his band with his waving hands as he went into a trance.

As a bandleader, Simon knew exactly how to run his band of a dozen members and three times as many instruments. Simon walked away from the spotlight constantly throughout the night to watch the immense talent of his band.

His set list covered most of his long career, spanning from his 1960’s duo Simon & Garfunkel to his 2016 release “Stranger to Stranger.” The bulk of the songs were from his most famous album “Graceland” and its successor “The Rhythm of the Saints.”

Simon played the classic Simon & Garfunkel song “America” early in his set. Time froze while he sang, “And the moon rose over an open field,” as he looked ahead at the passing crescent moon.

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The moon over Red Rocks Amphitheater Photo credit: Jonny Rhein

Blue lights on the stage and the lightening flashing in the distance set the mood for “Cool, Cool River.” The band drew out its intensity with a lengthened version ending with a chaotic piano solo.

Crowd favorites were “Still Crazy After All these Years,” “Late in the Evening,” and, of course, “You Can Call Me Al.” Simon waved longtime bass player Bakithi Kumalo to the front during “You Can Call Me Al” to play the famous bass solo a second time.

Of everything Simon played, the songs from the album “The Rhythm of the Saints” seemed closest to his heart. He told a story about a medicine man in the Amazon who made a powerful medicine called ayahuasca. The medicine man said to Simon, “In about 15 minutes, you’re going to see the anaconda. It’s not real; it’s just the first part of the healing process.” This was his inspiration for “Spirit Voices.”

Tim Jearry traveled all the way from Florida to see Simon for the second time.

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“Fantastic,” Jearry said. “The whole thing. I’ve been following this guy for a long time. I saw him once at Central Park in New York City.”

Guitar player Vincent Nguini has been playing and touring with Simon since “Rhythm of the Saints” in 1990. Before “Cool, Cool River,” Nguini took the microphone to talk more about the time recording “The Rhythm of the Saints” and his long history with Simon. He spoke of Simon spending three days with pygmies in Africa, and three weeks in the African jungle fighting gorillas.

Simon ended his second and last encore on a serious note before he played his last song of the night.

“One last thought,” Simon said. “Anger is addictive. The brain likes it. All that adrenaline. We’re declared a nation of addicts. Think to yourself the next time something you see or hear makes you angry. Think about who’s making a profit off this. We have plenty of reasons to be angry. The fact is we can solve problems more efficiently with a calm mind.”

He then closed the show with a solo rendition of Simon & Garfunkel’s “The Sound of Silence.”

Collegian reporter Jonny Rhein can be reached at entertainment@collegian.com or on Twitter @jonnyrhein.