Grizzly Bear, Josh Groban Pay Tribute To Paul Simon

Say what you will about Paul Simon, dude from Los Lobos, but the guy’s written more of the Great American Songbook than anyone playing Coachella this weekend. Aside from Prince. And Black Kids. Last night a motley crew of performers descended upon the Howard Gilman Opera House for Brooklyn Academy Of Music’s month-long celebration of the Simon catalog. Earlier this month, we saw David Byrne visit Graceland at BAM and that was sort of thrilling. That was part of “Under African Skies” night. Last night’s American theme (“Simon revisits the quiet railway stations, urban rhythms, and immigrant dreams of his greatest American tunes,” according to the event program) resulted in a more mixed bag. A bag of Josh Groban.

It would be too easy and perhaps unfair to say Groban didn’t belong. Yes, his showy baritone was a strange fit for “America.” But the crowd (avg age 63) dug it, and gave a standing ovation. Earlier in the night, Grizzly Bear expertly deconstructed “Mother And Child Reunion” and “Graceland.” The lady behind us seemed a bit confused by Chris’s “noises” at the end of their slowcore “Mother And Child.” They did not receive a standing O. (Grizz had rehearsed “Think Too Much,” too, but unfortunately that was cut. Would’ve liked to hear that.) Cornetist (and father of Nas) Olu Dara offered a funky and jokey “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover,” and The Roches had fun (i.e., were sort of grating) with “Cecila.” Maggie Roche did the funky chicken throughout. Gillian Welch and David Rawlings’s impressive fretwork made “Duncan” a highlight. In fact, the country duo were the best part of the evening. Simon joined them for “The Boxer.”

Paul and his band’s “Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard,” “Mrs. Robinson,” and “Train In The Distance” were all pleasant, but the man of the hour did not seem particularly enthused to be out of the house last night. The setlist:

“American Tune” – The Roches & Paul Simon
“Me And Julio Down By The Schoolyard” – Paul Simon
“Graceland” – Grizzly Bear
“Mother And Child Reunion” – Grizzly Bear
“Peace Like A River” – Amos Lee
“Jonah” – Amos Lee
“Slip Slidin’ Away” – Olu Dara
“Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover” – Olu Dara
“Still Crazy After all these Years” – Olu Dara
“Another Galaxy” – The Roches
“Cecilia” – The Roches
“America” – Josh Groban
“Silent Eyes” – Josh Groban
“Bridge Over Troubled Water” – Josh Groban & Paul Simon
“Gone At Last” – Gillian Welch
“Duncan” – Gillian Welch
“The Boxer” – Gillian Welsh
“The Sound Of Silence – Gillian Welch & Paul Simon
“Mrs. Robinson” – Paul Simon
“Train In The Distance” – Paul Simon
“How Can You Live In The Northeast?” – Paul Simon
“The Only Living Boy in New York” – Paul Simon & The Roches
“Late In The Evening” – Paul Simon

Grizzly Bear – “Graceland” (MP3)

Here is not Josh Groban covering “America.”