Concert Review: Paul Simon Live – 2 April 2013 Sydney Entertainment Centre

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 9th April 2013.

Many, many moons ago, for my twelfth birthday party, I compiled a wish list of cassettes that I wanted to receive from my family and schoolmates. For the uninitiated, cassettes were the precursor to compact discs and had a tendency to melt in the car on hot days in summer. They were also much harder to use as drink coasters.

My list was varied and contained just as many albums that would be considered classics as embarrassments. For every Crowded House debut album, there was a Rick Astley disaster. For every Kick by INXS, there was a Tiffany album. As always, I will deny owning these terrible albums if asked (I’m still talking to you, Doug, the newspaper guy).

One cassette I loved from the moment I pressed play was Graceland by Paul Simon. My gateway track was the hit single You Can Call Me Al, which featured a music video starring Chevy Chase, back when he was funny (he later became funny again in the hit comedy series Community but sadly left the show last year, which for fans like me wasn’t funny).

Graceland was the amalgam of Simon’s pop and folk roots and his discovery of South African music. Every track is a gem and the album, which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year, is still on regular rotation in my home and car (on CD even).

So it was with great excitement that I witnessed a 70 year old Paul Simon in concert at the soon-to-be-demolished Sydney Entertainment Centre last Tuesday night. I missed his support act, Rufus Wainwright, but heard some audience members giving him scathing reviews in the foyer, so I may have dodged a bullet there.

Opening with the Graceland classic, Gumboots, it was clear that the capacity crowd were in for a musical treat. Simon’s eight piece multi-instrumentalist backing band was absolutely remarkable and recreated the sound of the Graceland tracks, in particular, flawlessly.

In his awkward introductory speech, Simon announced that he wanted to play an upbeat set, which was fine by me as I had just driven for three and a half hours from work and had the same journey ahead of me immediately after the concert. Hit after hit followed in rapid succession: 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard, The Obvious Child. Unfortunately, the overzealous security folk kept those wanting to dance in their assigned places, however, with a largely baby boomer audience, arthritis may have also been responsible for everyone else staying comfortably seated.

Simon performed six Graceland tracks during the show, including You Can Call Me Al, as well as songs from his earlier solo work right up to his new album, 2011’s So Beautiful or So What. He also performed some covers including a beautiful version of George Harrison’s Here Comes the Sun.

Returning for his third encore, Simon announced that he felt like playing some Simon and Garfunkel tracks and sent us all home after two hours of pure musical bliss with joyful renditions of America, Homeward Bound and The Boxer. I might have shed a tear or two during the final track. I said “might have”, Doug.

Published in: on April 9, 2013 at 18:42  Leave a Comment  
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Autograph Hunting

This column was originally published in the Central Western Daily on Tuesday 26th June 2012.

As a pop culture fanatic, I love to collect memorabilia, in particular, signed items. I’m not really interested in trying to make money by hanging onto these autographs until they appreciate in value and then sell them off. I’d rather put them on my wall as a reminder of an encounter with an artist whose work I admire.

Of course, it is not always easy to get an autographed item. Famous actors don’t tend to wander the streets very often. Most of my prized possessions are photos signed at pop culture conventions, such as Supanova, which was held in Sydney last weekend. The celebrities that attend these events tend to be stars from cult TV shows or movies, and most charge $30 or so for an autographed photo.

There’s plenty of signed collectibles available on eBay, but you never truly know if the autograph is legitimate. In the US, it is estimated that 90% of autographed items sold on eBay are forged.

So how can you obtain authentic signed items without travelling around the world stalking your favourite artist? The good news is that some great signed collectibles are available directly from musicians and actors websites, and not all of it will cost you a fortune.

I’ve previously written about my admiration for The Beach Boys. To celebrate their 50th Anniversary Tour, you can purchase an uncut proof sheet of their new CD artwork signed by all 5 surviving members of the band, including Brian Wilson, for only $500, directly from their website. If you fancy a limited edition signed surfboard, it’s a bargain at $6000, and there are only five out of ten left.

One of my favourite albums ever is Paul Simon’s Graceland, which celebrates its 25th anniversary this year. Currently available from Simon’s online shop is a deluxe bundle which includes the Graceland boxset, the album on vinyl and a limited edition poster personally signed by the master songwriter. This bundle is only $250 and great value for cashed up Paul Simon fans.

Geeks rejoice. Captain Kirk himself, William Shatner, sells an array of signed items on his website. My choice would be The Shat’s latest album, Seeking Major Tom, which will only set you back $95 for an autographed copy. I’d also recommend that you admire your signed CD and not actually listen to it.

Holy superannuation fund Batman! Everyone’s favourite Batman, Adam West, is still making a living from his iconic role from the sixties. Direct from the Adam West Store, you can grab a signed vintage art movie poster from the 1966 Batman film for $35.

If musicians float your boat and your budget is tight, then why not add a exclusive lithograph signed by Nelly Furtado to your wall? It will only set you back $25 directly from the artist herself. If you prefer your music and politics to the left, English singer songwriter Billy Bragg will put his pen to a copy of his Mermaid Avenue Complete Session CD boxset for $35. For the eighties tragics, pop queens Debbie Gibson and Tiffany will sell you a genuine signed photo for only $20 and $15, respectively.

Proving that you don’t have to spend a fortune to collect an autographed item, the cost of a cup of coffee is all it takes to get Guy Sabastian’s John Hancock. A signed copy of his latest single is available via JBHifi’s website for $4.

Whether it cost you a couple of bucks or a small fortune, or even a few hours hiding in the bushes in the Hollywood Hills, the true price of a signed collectible is its sentimental value to a fan.