Thursday, 8 November 2018
REVIEW: Something About Simon - The Epstein Theatre, Liverpool
Paul Simon is known all over the world as the first half of singing duo Simon and Garfunkel. Long before forming the chart-topping group Simon was a singer/songwriter in his own right learning his craft as a folk singer in his native America and perhaps less likely in the folk clubs of north west of England. ‘His name has become synonymous, not only with music, but with cultural history. In popular music, this is a small club, and he joins the likes of Woody Guthrie, Miles Davis or Chuck Berry as a figure that helped define, not only his own generation, but also those that came afterwards.’
Liverpool singer-songwriter Gary Edward Jones brings a new show and a new type of show to the stage of the Epstein Theatre for an evening that promises a glimpse of nostalgia and well tested and more importantly well-loved songs. All we know is that, ‘Something About Simon is not a tribute show; it is one musician authentically honouring the music of another, utilising all the tools at his disposal.’ Jones is unknown to many and I admit to feeling a little nervous for him in the face of a packed and expectant audience. I need not have worried. Jones is an accomplished musician with thirty years of experience who could easily hold the stage in his own right. His understated folk style seems gentle and vulnerable as he appears alone on stage with a video screen on the back wall showing mood images and period still photographs, surrounded by large white cardboard cut-outs with black-sketched graphics of a 60s ABC TV camera, a record player and a British railway bench, (numerous stories place Simon on Widnes Railway station writing Homeward Bound).
Jones certainly has a look of Paul Simon and, as he launches into the first bars of 'Sound Of Silence', you wonder how it could not be a tribute act. However, after years of comparisons with Paul Simon, Jones has studied Simon intensively for over two years. He’s travelled the same path Simon did in the 60s. He’s discovered his music and the meaning behind his lyrics. ‘He lived and breathed all things Simon.’ Jones has incorporated the experiences, anecdotes and stories of Simon’s life into a biography interwoven with songs from each of his music albums. He brings to life his life and loves through America and 'Kathy’s Song' (she was from Brentwood in Essex), '50 Ways To Leave Your Lover' and 'Mrs. Robinson' (changed from Mrs Roosevelt). It’s like Desert Island Discs with visuals.
The spoken word in the narrative Jones has created has a certain lyricism to it and he has an easy listening voice. Reverential but never sycophantic Jones talks us through Simon’s journey, his turbulent partnership with Art Garfunkel and volatile marriage to Carrie Fisher. He plays well and lesser-known songs with equal enthusiasm and innumerable guitar changes, ‘I’ve got more guitars than shoes, or as my mum says Alma Cogan, who’s she? I was born in 1970.’ Unintentionally, perhaps, it is through this narrative that we also learn about Jones and his own love of music. He plays a couple of his own songs. His style is unmistakably influenced by the great man himself.
Jones’ confidence grows with Simon’s success story, hitting his stride in the second half, but he is far better than he realises and should project this more on the stage. Blinded by the lights he is a little detached from the enthralled (quiet) audience and I’d prefer blown-up album covers rather than cardboard cut outs on stage but these are minor niggles as Jones transforms from a busker style, that I realised was intentional (Simon was a busker in Paris), from finger-picking to strumming and complex rhythms and patterns. Whether you are a musician, historian or just enjoy the music there is something for everyone. Something About Simon?...there is something about Jones that lingers. This brand-new show leaves the audience wondering where Kathy is today, where the old Paul Simon albums are and wanting to pluck a guitar and write a song.
Reviewer - Barbara Sherlockon - 7/11/18