Something About Simon
One of the thrills of the Liverpool Theatre Festival has been the opportunity to see well-established shows in the intimate setting that is the Bombed Out Church. And one of those provided some superb Saturday night entertainment, that being Something About Simon.
This show tells the story of Paul Simon (played by Gary Edward Jones), a legendary singer-songwriter whose back catalogue features some truly incredible and famous hits. We’ll come to the music shortly, but first we have to note how this covered not only Simon’s discography, but his life as a whole. It delved into how he became a musician in the first place, as well as his turbulent marriage with Kathy Chitty. We heard about the challenges he faced along the way as a performer, such as him having to resort to borrowing a guitar that he ended up accidentally breaking. Of course, Simon was able to rise above personal and professional challenges, not least with him meeting Art Garfunkel to form an iconic partnership. He would later marry Carrie Fisher, though they would divorce not terribly long afterwards. Simon himself is now retired from performing live, though his music continues to inspire million, not to mention his influence on the next generation of musicians.
With the stage showcasing cardboard cut-outs of ABC television cameras and a park bench, there was a suitably American feel to a production that featured a home-grown Scouse actor. The songs covered will please any fans of Paul Simon, amongst them The Sound Of Silence, The Boxer, Bridge Over Troubled Water, 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover and Homeward Bound. One of Simon’s talents was creating songs that felt different from one another as opposed to always following a specific formula, which meant a varied evening of music for the live audience here.
Gary Edward Jones has performed in this show for a while now, and it’s clear to see why. He is not only a huge Paul Simon fan himself, but he can step into the shoes of the American music maestro with great ease. The best compliment that one can give about a show of this nature is how you could imagine the real-life singer standing before you if you closed your eyes and opened your ears, and Edward Jones definitely achieved this. His renditions of Simon’s back catalogue were terrific, his guitar-playing was outstanding, and these elements ensured that the audience was truly engrossed from start to finish. As a man, Edward Jones came across as very friendly, approachable and amusing, providing some typical Scouse humour between songs, as well as having great diction and a soft-spoken tone.
As noted, this production goes beyond merely offering a tribute to its subject by discussing Paul’s own history, and that includes the stories behind the songs themselves. This included details on how The Sounds Of Silence acted as a representation of how the United States of America felt in the aftermath of John F Kennedy’s assassination, as well as the true story as to how and where Homeward Bound was written, clearing up any widespread misconceptions. Gary also noted the message behind The Boxer: “We can all get beaten and bruised without stepping into the boxing ring.” It was enlightening to discover this information, because it allowed attendees to understand Paul Simon to a far greater extent than a simple run-through of his music would have done.
Something About Simon was a fantastic evening enhanced by beautiful lighting and a peaceful atmosphere. We’ve seen it before and we’ll definitely see it again, because the show is as fine a homage as any to the legend that is Paul Simon, with Gary Edward Jones doing his job splendidly.
(Thanks to Nicola Fraser for her contributions to this review.)