Another BST Hyde Park series is brought to a close with this Sunday event. Gone are the worries about what to do if England qualify for the World Cup Final (they didn't) and whether Paul Simon will play Hyde Park again (probably not). It was a fitting close to a blistering summer series.
For this is billed as Simon's farewell tour, that infamous term used often to drum up ticket sales and synonymous with not necessarily quitting after all. The last time Paul Simon played Hyde Park was in honour of a Graceland anniversary tour; that day emergency measures were taken by organisers to prevent a mudslide due to an awful week of rain. What a contrast today, with another sweltering day and no need for anything to help the ground (aside from maybe some water!)
BST Hyde Park pride themselves on a good supporting bill, and today is no exception. Blues country legend Bonnie Raitt packs a swagger in the mid-afternoon Hyde Park setting. Commiserating the crowd for England not reaching the World Cup Final, Raitt has charm in droves and isn't afraid to rock out covering INXS, Mose Allison or Talking Heads. The only shame is she's on so early.
James Taylor is next. Still incredibly popular. Still massive around the world. He even dethroned Taylor Swift from the Billboard album charts last year. This is the biggest outdoor concert he's ever played in Europe. Taylor's trademark hits are covered early. From Mexico to Something About The Way She Moves, the latter prefaced with a story about how Taylor was in the right place and right time to sign to the Beatles' Apple label. Self-aware enough to make quips and jokes with the audience throughout, Taylor even throws out You've Got A Friend early, probably to shut the crowd up for requesting it, but not in terms of them singing along. That Carole King hit is followed immediately with another, Up On The Roof. Taylor sounds like he always has and feels right at home in front of a packed Hyde Park crowd. The only gripe is the relentless heat, and certain crowdmembers who year-on-year think they can reserve an area near the front with their blankets. Blanket Rage is an actual Hyde Park condition.
Onto Paul Simon - solo tour - no Garfunkel and barely a mention of him in any of the video clips or press cuttings that dress the set. Depressingly, only five Simon and Garfunkel songs are played (no Mrs. Robinson or Feelin' Groovey!) in the twenty-five song set - and Simon seems much more comfortable cutting loose with newer dancey numbers like Wristband or Rewrite than the old faithful. Cheering French fans could be heard celebrating the World Cup success outside, but Simon wasn't going to let anything outdo him, even if the set was mostly devoid of any visual thrill; often you could hear impolite fans chatter during the more bored moments sadly. It's the Graceland numbers that sparked the energy in the fans, if you discounted the tears during The Boxer or Simon's reworking of Bridge Over Troubled Water, a song he announced he was "reclaiming". With two encores, and a touching finale of Homeward Bound, it's hard to say whether this is actually Paul Simon's last UK concert, but if it is - the crowd went home happy.
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