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July 24, 2014

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Photos: Paul Simon and band aim to please at The Colosseum — and succeed

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Christopher DeVargas

Paul Simon performs at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace on Oct. 24, 2011.

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Paul Simon at The Colosseum

Paul Simon performs at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace on Oct. 24, 2011. Launch slideshow »

Paul Simon has over the four decades he’s been a recording artist amassed a catalog rivaling the great American composers. That might make it sound like Simon’s concert last night at The Colosseum in Caesars Palace was a chin-stroking stroll through some mildew-y museum.

It wasn’t. This is, after all, rock and roll, and Simon and his band aimed to please an enthusiastic crowd. “You winning?” Simon asked during a pause early in the show. “We are now,” came a shouted reply from the back.

Responding to repeated calls for the Simon & Garfunkel hit “Cecilia,” Simon detoured from the set list. “We never play it,” he said before calling out the key to the band and telling his percussionist to get it started.

It seemed like a bit of adventure, with the crowd not entirely sure Simon and his eight bandmates could pull it off. When they did, the audience responded with the longest and loudest ovation of the night.

This band -- including some members who have played with Simon since he recorded Graceland 25 years ago -- could have pulled off anything this side of cold fusion. They switched deftly from instrument to instrument. And their versions of the songs on Simon’s latest album, the lovely So Beautiful or So What, sounded deeper and more muscular than the studio originals.

The 27-song set reminded the audience that when Simon is at his best, he’s like an impressionist painter, coloring his music with melody and rhythm from a dozen cultures, his lyrics evoking images without forcing a single meaning on them.

Some of the standout moments included the Simon & Garfunkel classics “The Only Living Boy in New York” and a haunting solo-acoustic rendition of “The Sound of Silence,” which started the first encore. Also, favorites from Graceland -- “The Boy in the Bubble” and “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes” -- and the infectious “Kodachrome.”

There were surprises, too: The Beatles’ “Here Comes the Sun” and Bo Diddley’s “Pretty Thing,” which came before the final song of the night, “Still Crazy After All These Years.”

On that one, Simon sang: “I met my old lover on the street last night/ She seemed so glad to see me I just smiled/ And we talked about some old times/ And we drank ourselves some beers/ Still crazy after all these years.”

Maybe he wrote that about an old girlfriend. But last night, it seemed the lover in question was the music.

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