- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 25, 2001

Paul Simon and Brian Wilson, two pop-music giants approaching 60, explored distinctive parallel universes at Nissan Pavilion in a rousing double bill Saturday night that revealed that neither artist is content to coast along nostalgically in neutral. In separate sets that never brought the mutual admirers together onstage, each singer-composer presented two dozen songs in ways that surprised and delighted.
Mr. Simon, who never really discarded his '60s persona of a literately brooding urbanite, deployed a new and disarming rock 'n' roll body language. A whirl of animated gestures and dance steps, he fronted a tight 11-member band to charge through percussion- and horn-driven selections from last year's largely reflective "You're the One" album, as well as refashioned favorites from other solo works and his beloved Simon and Garfunkel years.
In addition to powerful renditions of "That's Where I Belong," "The Teacher" and "Hurricane Eye" from the current release, Mr. Simon scored with infectiously arranged standouts "Me and Julio Down by the Schoolyard," "You Can Call Me Al," "Late in the Evening," "Boy in the Bubble," "Graceland" and — most exquisitely — "Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes," launched with a gorgeous a-cappella opening.
A poignant "S&G;" miniset showcased a haunting, acoustic guitar- and cello-based "The Sound of Silence," a country-flavored "Homeward Bound" and a tougher-rocking "I Am a Rock." Less successful were later recastings of "The Boxer," "Loves Me Like a Rock" and an almost unrecognizable "Kodachrome." Throughout, a certain sameness undercut too many of Mr. Simon's vocals and his band's exuberant rhythms.
Still, the crowd's affectionate reception visibly moved the trim and toned Mr. Simon, who turns 60 in October. Dozens descended to the lip of the stage to reach out during his three lengthy encores, including a warmly celebratory "Still Crazy After All These Years" and a somewhat fitful "Bridge Over Troubled Water."
If Mr. Simon's nearly two-hour show lost momentum and stalled going into the curves, Mr. Wilson's 75-minute opening set was a sleek custom machine that purred and roared in all the right places. The former Beach Boys leader and his amazing 10-member band captivated a growing audience long before the home stretch of foot-stomping favorites such as "Help Me Rhonda," "Good Vibrations," "Barbara Ann," "Surfin' USA" and "Fun, Fun, Fun."
Sure, other thrillingly performed Beach Boys classics such as "California Girls," "I Get Around" and "God Only Knows" dotted the set list like palm trees in the sand. But it was the latest additions to Mr. Wilson's evolving, 2-year-old re-emergence as live performer that made this appearance feel like a milestone. He even played a little piano instead of focusing on his still-expressive vocals.
Mr. Wilson, the melancholy suburbanite who created timeless California summers in pop songs and turns 60 next June, triumphantly nailed underappreciated Beach Boys rockers ("Dance, Dance, Dance," "Sail on Sailor" and "Marcella"), rarely performed ballads (the lushly mournful "Warmth of the Sun" and "Forever," a lover's goodbye penned by his late brother Dennis) and a triple threat from his legendarily unfinished "Smile" album (the majestic a cappella "Our Prayer," the surreal Western soap opera "Heroes and Villains" and the haunting "Surf's Up").
For sheer rock 'n' roll fun, Mr. Wilson floored it on "Desert Drive," a honking, as-yet unreleased collaboration with band member Andy Paley that conjures the bracing freedom of his earliest hit records. Still-formidable composing gifts powered the adventurous "Your Imagination" as well as the seemingly simple show-closer "Love and Mercy," a benedictory "nice little love message."
The many pleasures here — nearly every song blossomed as a melodic or vocal stunner — doubtless had Simon-obsessed late arrivals wishing they had taken their seats on time.

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