Paul Simon | The Auditorium, Rome | 29 July 2008

Paul Simon's last appearance in Rome was in what has now become the historic final performance with Art Garfunkel on 31 July 2004 in a free concert in front of the Colosseum before a crowd of 600,000 spectators who filled the entire length of Via dei Fori Imperiali as far as Piazza Venezia. Two years earlier Paul Simon had given another amazing (and again, free) concert at the Galoppatoio in Villa Borghese Park to a capacity crowd of 50,000. Having seen him twice, therefore, and knowing what a brilliant performer he is live I didn't hesitate at getting tickets for his first paid show in the capital and the chance to see him in the smaller setting of the Cavea at the Auditorium. Yet such is the energy of the man that even on a sizzling hot July evening he had everybody in the audience clapping and cheering as if they were at a stadium! Early on he commented (as many other performers before him have done) about the physical distance that separated him from the audience who were seated way back from the stage – I wish we weren't so far apart... - although by the end people were on their feet and dancing at the foot of the stage regardless of what the Auditorium rules might say!

When you're Paul Simon choosing a set list must be an arduous task – what DO you choose with such a staggering back catalogue behind you? I really enjoyed the selection which showcased his entire career with tracks from most albums including some real gems like Train In The Distance from Hearts and Bones, Duncan from Paul Simon as well as three tracks from his latest outing SurpriseOutrageous, How Can You Live In The North East and Father And Daughter. Graceland dominated the set list (who's complaining...?) with five tracks in total lifted from that award winning album. The Simon & Garfunkel tracks predictably went down a storm – the intro to Mrs. Robinson included a wonderful reference to Mystery Train by Elvis, The Sounds of Silence with just voice and guitar was a masterpiece of understatement and The Boxer was the audience sing-along song in the second encore. The most surprising Simon & Garfunkel inclusion for me was The Only Living Boy In New York.

All in all there were too many high points to mention. Sheer perfection! Am looking forward to next time!

Full set list (I think this is complete...if there are any omissions please feel free to leave a comment below!)

The Boy In The Bubble
(intro Mystery Train) Mrs Robinson
How Can You Live In The North East?
Slip Slidin´ Away
Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard
You´re The One
Train In The Distance
The Teacher
The Sounds of Silence
The Cool Cool River
The Only Living Boy In New York
Father And Daughter
Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes
Still Crazy After All These Years
You Can Call Me Al
That was Your Mother
The Boxer
Late In The Evening

Incidentally, Paul Simon was supported by blues guitarist and singer-songwriter Robben Ford who played a really enjoyable half hour set as the Cavea filled. I'll admit I hadn't actually heard of him before but will now investigate his work - I was really pleased to have arrived early enough to have seen him perform.