If Paul Simon is as stingy on Halloween as he was, musically speaking, during the first three-quarters of his show Saturday night at Borgata Hotel, Casino & Spa, it probably isn't worth trick-or treating at his house.
It's not that the program delivered by the turning-70-in-October pop titan and his impressively versatile 8-piece band didn't deliver a sterling set boasting many great moments large and small. But he probably could have been a little more indulgent of the baby boomer crowd who filled the 2,400-seat Event center to capacity during the pre-encore going.
The main part of the one-hour, 45-minute turn saw Simon pretty much keeping to a very strict formula: He played two new and/or more obscure songs for every favorite. For example, he opened with "Crazy Love. Vol. II," the B-side to 1986's "Boy In the Bubble" (from his landmark "Graceland" LP) and "Dazzling Blue" from his recently released CD, "So Beautiful or So What"--a critically acclaimed meditation on love, life and death--before performing "50 ways to Leave Your Lover." And then he played the new disc's title track and Jimmy Cliff's "Vietnam" before throwing another "greatest hits" bone, "Mother and Child Reunion."
And so it went until the extended encore, which began with a beautiful, if mournful and world-weary, solo acoustic reading of "The Sounds of Silence," the 1965 folk-rock track that catapulted Simon and his once-and-possibly-future partner, Art Garfunkel, to the top of the pop music heap. That was followed by superb takes on "Kodachrome," "Late In the Evening" and "Still Crazy After All These Years," as well as a pitch-perfect solo reading of George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun" (which he and the late Beatle famously performed during a 1976 episode of "Saturday Night Live"--hear it at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YVJgDTQZPbs.
Still, many of the evening's highlights were generated by renditions of the less-familiar material, which were all presented in polyrhythmic formats that amounted to a sonic trip around the globe: From the Township modes of South Africa ("Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes" to Jamaican reggae ("Mother and Child Reunion") to Louisiana Bayou Zydeco ("That Was Your Mother" from "SBOSW"), Simon and his multi-cultural crew (which included Cheltenham Township native Andy Snitzer on a variety of brass instruments) kept the rhythms percolating, chugging and skipping.
Perhaps most impresive was the impeccable musical detail that colored each and every number. The zydeco material included accordion and washboard; on the guitar solo during Elvis Presley's iconic rockabilly dash, "Mystery Train," the rhythm section included a triangle (!).
Then again, maybe the most amazing thing about Saturday's set was that Simon turned in such a full, rich and satisfying performance even as he excluded such signatures as "The Boxer," "Homeward Bound," "You Can Call Me Al," "Mrs. Robinson," "Love Me Like A Rock" and "American Tune."
Those ommissions may be all you need to know about Paul Simon's place in the pop music firmament.