Paul Simon is still crazy after all these years

Paul Simon performing live on the "Stranger to Stranger" tour. Photo via:

Reader, I was a dumb child.

For some inexplicable reason, I really hated Simon and Garfunkel growing up. Why? I don’t know, I just knew whenever my dad played “Cecilia” I remember groaning and asking him to turn it off.

Then, flash forward to junior year of high school, where I’m discovering “Almost Famous” for the first time. I love that movie for a billion different reasons, but one thing I have always appreciated from that viewing experience was it opened a whole new door of music for me to discover. Led Zeppelin, Neil Young, Lou Reed, The Beach Boys, David Bowie — and I’m just barely scratching the surface on the music. The most prominent memory was ten minutes into the movie when Zooey Deschanel is leaving home and telling her brother that “one day you’ll be cool,” and there’s this little track called “America” playing in the background. I remember I was ready to fall out of my chair because I had just heard one of the greatest songs ever for the first time.

That was my reintroduction to the music of that duo.

I ran downstairs to find the greatest hits album and some of Paul Simon’s other works (my dad owned “Graceland” and “Rhythm of the Saints”) to put on my iPod immediately after, and from there, the rest is history.

Last year, Paul Simon released “Stranger to Stranger,” to critical acclaim, landing in Billboard, Mojo and Rolling Stone’s best albums lists. Following the release of the album, Simon hinted that he could be retiring soon in an interview article from the New York Times. Well, if this is going to be his last tour, he’s going out with a bang.

After an afternoon of severe thunderstorms in the Chicago land area and an 80 minute delay to the start of the concert, Simon came out with his touring band with “The Boy in the Bubble” off of “Graceland” and still managed to play the majority of his set. “Hello, my soggy friends!” Simon cheered after finishing the first few songs. I peaked at what the set list was going to be awhile back, and it did not disappoint in the slightest. Five out of the 25 or 26 songs he set aside for this tour came from his Simon and Garfunkel days while also including nearly all of the singles from “Graceland” (minus “Under African Skies” and “Homeless”), all the singles from his self-titled album, and a mixture of songs from “Still Crazy After All These Years,” “Rhythm of the Saints,” and a few others. Even if I don’t care for something like “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,” the whole crowd was getting into the show, and it was fantastic.

Nearly halfway through the show, Simon asked the audience for requests, and many people were shouting various songs from his discography (I wanted “Hearts and Bones”), which was immediately followed by him saying, “I don’t do requests,” and strummed right into “Homeward Bound.” When “Mother and Child Reunion” and “Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard,” Simon was dancing away while the backing band is going to these jams. “You want to hear it again?” Simon asks the crowd after “Me and Julio” wrapped up, and a reprise of the chorus and ending came on. To say that all of this was entertaining is an understatement, I was cracking up and having a ball seeing all of this take place. He truly loves performing on stage, and folks near and far were all getting into the music and his antics.

Absent from the show was “Stranger to Stranger,” but all things considered, it was even amazing that Simon got to play nearly everything. The Northerly Island Park closes at 11 P.M., and there usually isn’t an exception to the rule. Even after a 90 minute rain delay for Phish back when they played there in 2013, park officials wanted the show to be wrapped up by 11 P.M. That wasn’t the case last night, and I’m so happy and thankful for it.

I’m incredibly happy to say to the folks who will see him at Summerfest that they’re in for a treat. Paul Simon is still crazy after all these years, and it was such a delight to be able to see him play live. I’ll be honest, I did tear up a bit when “America” came on — it reminded me so much of the first time I listened to it back in high school on that first “Almost Famous” viewing and again when I was leaving home to come to Milwaukee. I don’t know how much longer the world is going to have Paul Simon around for, but I’m so incredibly happy he’s alive and still playing music.

He closed off with this, “Anger is an addiction, and we’ve become a nation of addicts — beware of any source or publication that makes you angry,” Simon warned the crowd. Everybody from his touring band left the stage at that point, so it was just Simon up there by himself with his guitar. He started a playing a familiar tune, and the audience went wild. He closed the show off with the famous “Sound of Silence.”