Review by Rick Andrade
After 60 years in the business, Paul Simon may be finally ready to hang up his rock ’n’ roll shoes. In recent interviews, he’s been floating the idea that his new album Stranger to Stranger may be his last and he may pursue other modes of creative exploration. If this is indeed the case, then he is definitely going out on a high note. Stranger to Stranger is his most adventurous, touching, and even funny album since Graceland back in 1986.
Simon didn’t delve too deeply into his new album at his stop at the Sony Centre for Performing Arts on Tuesday, playing three cuts from the album: “Wristband” kept the crowd dancing, “Stranger to Stranger” was a poignant and beautiful moment, and “The Werewolf” managed to actually elicit (purposeful) laughs from the crowd while building to a doom-laden crescendo.
Of course, no matter how good your new album is, when you have one of the most beloved songbooks in the history of popular music, people want to hear selections from that — and he did not disappoint. All the hits were on display, from “Mother and Child Reunion” to the primary set closer, “You Can Call Me Al.” Simon’s band were awe-inspiring, not only in their technical proficiency but for their tasteful playing and their ability to lock together to create a layered, polyrhythmic experience (their percussionist definitely made the most of the huge amount of instruments laid out on the stage.)
But just because the set was full of hits, it didn’t mean that there were no surprises. Simon pulled out a few lesser-known titles like “Spirit Voices” and “Dazzling Blue” (from his last very underrated album, So Beautiful or So What) and changed up a few ubiquitous hits like “The Boy in the Bubble,” which started the set with a looser, bluesy feel, and “Slip Slidin’ Away,” which was delivered with more boogie than ever before.
Those looking for Simon & Garfunkel songs had to wait patiently for the end of the set — by which point the crowd was elated. At the end of two encores, Simon brought out “The Boxer” (with a little nod to the theme music he wrote for Louis C.K.’s web-series, Horace and Pete) and closed the show alone with “The Sound of Silence.” It’s fitting that the song that kickstarted Simon’s career is the one he came back to end the night. The song has lost none of its power in that time and as the final notes rang out throughout the venue, it’s possible that they were the final notes Toronto may hear from him in concert. Hopefully, that’s not the case, but if it is, he couldn’t have picked a better note to leave us with.