Monday, September 8, 2008

Paul Simon

Paul Simon seemed happy and energetic performing at the Washington Convention Center on Saturday night as part of AARP's 50th-anniversary celebration. That is, until he caught a glimpse of his face magnified on the venue's supersize monitors.

"I'm really grateful for that close-up," Simon quipped. "It's like when I look in the mirror close up and say, 'Oh, great.' "

"You still look good, Paul!" someone from the audience shouted.

Yes, and, more importantly, he sounded good. The 66-year-old singer, voice virtually unchanged from his younger days, hit every career highlight in a nearly two-hour show: early Simon & Garfunkel songs, the best of "The Graduate" soundtrack, and decades of solo material.

Simon started with "Gumboots" and "The Boy in the Bubble," from 1986's South African mbaqanga-influenced "Graceland," and "Outrageous" from 2006's "Surprise," but the crowd perked up only when it heard the opening guitar chords of "Slip Slidin' Away."

Still, other than scattered whooping and polite clapping, the audience was subdued, even through "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," "Mrs. Robinson" and a mesmerizing, intimate performance of "The Sounds of Silence," for which Simon cleared the stage.

It turns out the AARP attendees were just trying to be courteous concertgoers. Toward the end of the show, Simon said, "You know, you can stand up, you can come down here . . . it's your night," which prompted tons of people to rush to the front of the stage. They sang and danced through two encores, which included "The Boxer," "You Can Call Me Al" and, of course, "Still Crazy After All These Years."

-- Sarah Godfrey

Ramsey Lewis Trio

AARP's 50th-anniversary celebration at the Washington Convention Center presented the Ramsey Lewis Trio in concert on Friday night. Lewis crossed the same milestone as a professional musician a few years ago, and the performance often reminded listeners of his remarkable career longevity, from the opening chords of "Wade in the Water" to the inevitable encore, "The In Crowd."

Still, it's not what the 73-year-old pianist plays but how he plays it that keeps audiences thoroughly entertained. Only one selection heard during the concert didn't involve improvisation, and more than a few spontaneous diversions popped up unexpectedly, just when it appeared a thematic resolution was in sight.

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