An animated Paul Simon at the Mpls Convention Center

Star Tribune photo by David Brewster 

Tuesday was the big event — Paul Simon at First Avenue, the first two-time Rock and Roll Hall of Famer to perform at Minneapolis’ most famous music venue.

The staff even put up a Paul Simon star on the building’s facade before the concert. (Note to rock fans: Don’t confuse this guy with Paul Simonon of the Clash, Gorillaz, et al.)

And there was a special ticketing system because all the tickets were "will call" (take that, scalpers) and six entrances were used for this special sold-out performance.

How was the show?

It was packed with baby boomers, many of whom seemed like fish out of water at First Ave (few of them were filming anything for YouTube), and younger fans, who probably knew Simon from their parents' records or perhaps from such au courant Simon-influenced groups as Fleet Foxes and Vampire Weekend. All 1,500 First Ave-goers will remember this night for a long, long time.

Tuesday's concert may have been historic, but Simon’s performance Monday at the Minneapolis Convention Center auditorium was superior because he was more animated, talkative and assertive vocally. He seemed to be enjoying himself more on Monday; he even shook hands with many fans at the edge of the stage. At First Avenue, he seemed tired, he didn’t reach out to the crowd and he didn’t sing loud enough. Or his vocals were too soft in the sound mix. At one point, some fans chanted in unison to turn it up. During quieter numbers (and there were several of them), the conversational din was louder than Simon’s voice. Moreover, his excellent eight-man band sounded muddy at times, especially compared to the pristine sound at the Mpls Aud.

The set list offered only two different songs from Monday’s. (For the record, I made a mistake in identifying one of Simon’s songs in my review of Monday's concert; the frisky, Cajun-spiked piece was "That Was Your Mother" from "Graceland." Sorry, my bad. Give me rewrite, as Simon himself might say.) At First Ave, he opened with "Boy in the Bubble" instead of "Crazy Love Vol. II." In mid-set, he did a foot-stomping "Getting Ready for Christmas Day" from his new "So Beautiful or So What" instead of "Questions for the Angels," also from the new disc.

Once again, Simon’s arrangements were resourceful, creative and accessibly exotic. As I said of Monday’s show, the two-hour performance was very good but, like Simon himself, as moody as it was moving. Seeing him up close (he is almost as short as Prince without his heels) was a treat for the 1,500 folks who shelled out $51.25 (prices at the much larger auditorium ranged from $52 to $127.) The crowd included Minneapolis Mayor R.T. Rybak and music men Har Mar Superstar and Martin Devaney.

Here is the set list from First Avenue:

Boy in the Bubble/ Dazzling Blue/ 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover/ So Beautiful or So What/ Vietnam (Jimmy Cliff) > Mother and Child Reunion/ That Was Your Mother/ Hearts and Bones > Mystery Train (Elvis Presley)/ Slip Slidin Away/ Rewrite/ Peace Like a River/ The Obvious Child/ The Only Living Boy in New York/ Getting Ready for Christmas Day/ Love Is Eternal Sacred Light/ Father & Daughter/ Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes/ Gumboots ENCORE The Sounds of Silence (solo acoustic)/ Kodachrome > Gone at Last/ Here Comes the Sun (Beatles, with fans cheering loudly for "long, cold, lonely winter" and "the ice is slowly melting")/ Late in the Evening ENCORE 2 Still Crazy After All of These Years