Simon, Wilson Potent in Nissan Performances

Article excerpt

Byline: Ken McIntyre

PETERSBURG, Va. - 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. …