In ‘Homeward Sure: A Grammy Salute to Paul Simon,’ Artists From Rhiannon Giddens to Jonas Brothers Tackle Important American Tunes: TV Evaluate

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Viewers received’t go unsuitable watching the two-hour entirety of “Homeward Sure: A Grammy Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon” tonight on CBS (or, in days to come back, streaming on Paramount+). However when you have solely a couple of 10-minute stretch to spare for televised non-holiday music within the days main as much as Christmas, perhaps make it the closing act of this particular — particularly the generational handoff quantity that has one grasp, Rhiannon Giddens, movingly becoming a member of one other. As Giddens and Simon carry out “American Tune,” you might really feel such as you’ve gone off to seek out America, and really kinda succeeded in that search, over the course of only one quantity.

All the things else in regards to the telecast — which was filmed earlier than a stay viewers at Hollywood’s Pantages again in April (see Selection‘s next-day protection right here) — feels immaculately chosen by producer Ken Ehrlich, if hardly marked by left-field surprises. There aren’t any sops to the youth vote, apart from the inclusion of the Jonas Brothers reviving “50 Methods to Depart Your Lover,” which, with all due respect to their respect for one of many greats, in all probability clocks in because the least important efficiency right here. But it surely’s high-quality that they didn’t usher in, like, Gayle for the event. With a Paul Simon, you just about need one thing nearer to a peer-on-peer evaluate panel, which you’re undoubtedly getting when one of many company of honor is Stevie Marvel, the one man who received extra album of the yr Grammys within the Nineteen Seventies (three) than the pair of album trophies Simon picked up throughout that very same decade. Not one of the different company fairly rely as precise ’60s-era contemporaries the best way Marvel does, however with different frequent awardees like Bonnie Raitt additionally on board, it seems like Outdated Dwelling Week relating to this “Salute” nearly secondarily serving as a tribute to the Grammys themselves.

It might or could not appear stunning that a few of the finest stretches of the present come from Simon’s 1987 album of the yr winner, “Graceland” — it’s stunning provided that you didn’t imagine that Rickey Minor would be capable of assemble a band able to enjoying that stuff to its most African-continent potential. Minor additionally performs bass within the 17-piece home band he’s assembled, and you might end up questioning how the hell he was in a position to play the signature bass components on “You Can Name Me Al” so expertly, till it’s introduced — from on excessive, by closing presenter Oprah Winfrey — that “the final dwelling member of the ‘Graceland’ band,” Bakithi Kumalo, can also be current within the ensemble. Moreover Simon’s personal model of “Graceland’s” title observe close to the tip, the document that may be the landmark album of the ’80s is represented by Take 6 channeling Ladysmith Black Mambazo on the a cappella “Homeless” and Angélique Kidjo and fellow South African native Dave Matthews bringing figurative swagger and literal strutting to “Below African Skies” and “Al.”

Angélique Kidjo and Dave Matthews carry out onstage throughout Homeward Sure: A GRAMMY Salute To The Songs Of Paul Simon at Hollywood Pantages Theatre on April 06, 2022 in Hollywood, California. (Photograph by Kevin Winter/Getty Pictures for The Recording Academy)
Getty Pictures for The Recording Academy

There are different moments within the present the place issues get as multi-culti as they’re ever going to in honor of anybody who one of many Yankees’ greatest followers, like placing Jimmy Cliff and Shaggy in tandem service to “Mom and Little one Reunion,” arguably the primary reggae tune to change into an actual staple of American pop life. Exhibiting off Simon’s ecumenical in addition to ethnological range, his passing early-’70s curiosity in Black gospel has the mama-deifying “Loves Me Like a Rock” revived by the mixture of Take Six and Billy Porter — the latter not recognized for his influence on the Christian charts, however as Porter places it about his converging pursuits, “I grew up Pentecostal, I’m additionally homosexual, and I’m in love with life.” His journey to New Orleans for “Take Me to the Mardi Gras” will get essentially the most appropriate doable casting, coated right here by Trombone Shorty and Irma Thomas, the opposite visitor with a pedigree so long as Simon’s and Stevie’s.

Paradoxically, perhaps, Simon dipped over the course of his profession into nearly any and each style that counts as one of many constructing blocks of rock ‘n roll with out ever fairly identifiably rock ‘n’ rolling, per se, however that hole is taken up within the particular by Susanna Hoffs bringing again the Bangles’ hit cowl of “Hazy Shade of Winter,” probably the one time Simon was ever related — by proxy — with headbanging in addition to the stuff of headshrinkers.

HOMEWARD BOUND: A GRAMMY® SALUTE TO THE SONGS OF PAUL SIMON, a particular tribute live performance honoring 16-time GRAMMY® winner Paul Simon with a particular look by the legendary singer/songwriter himself can be broadcast on Wednesday, Dec. 21 (9:00-11:00 PM, ET/PT) on the CBS Tv Community and obtainable to stream on demand on Paramount+. Pictured: Susanna Hoffs. (Photograph by Christopher Polk/CBS through Getty Pictures)
CBS through Getty Pictures

For all that illustration of his style exploration, the majority of the 2 hours goes, not unreasonably, to stars treating his singer-songwriter essentiality in a singer-songwriter vogue. The nation artists are tops at placing a spin on the songs that means different old-school writers or singers: Garth Brooks, joined in flawless concord by Trisha Yearwood, affords “The Boxer” type of by means of Don McLean, whereas Eric Church barely reinvents “America” as a Glen Campbell/Jimmy Webb tune.

One among Simon’s nice presents as a songwriter, which additionally occurs to be part-and-parcel with why it’s generally tough to totally convey his brilliance to youthful generations, is his knack — particularly along with his a few of his early, post-Simon & Garfunkel solo work within the ’70s — for wedding ceremony a few of the trickiest, most insightful and generally most melancholy lyricism pop has ever seen to deceptively cheerful melodies that represented the apex of what “grownup up to date” songs may very well be. That’s evident right here as Little Large City cheerfully takes on “Slip Slidin’ Away,” a tragic tune that solely turns into sadder when, as edited for broadcast right here, it leaves off the cosmic shrug of the concluding verse and simply ends on the heartbreaking one a couple of divorced dad making a stealth go to to his sleeping child. They shouldn’t be smiling, actually, but it surely’s arduous in charge them — the easy-like-Sunday-morning-ness of the tune elicits feel-good mind chemistry even earlier than the group harmonies get layered on.

However Simon additionally had his moments, to make sure, when songs introduced themselves as profundities, and delivered. Which is how the stark one-two punch that ends the present impacts so powerfully following so many choices that have been feeling, nicely, groovier.

The band packs up after “Graceland” (in actual life, anyway — the super-tight enhancing shouldn’t be about to permit for the portrayal of Pantages set modifications) and Giddens comes out to hitch Simon, or to be joined by him, as his sole contribution to “American Tune” is as an instrumental accompanist. It’s a shocking rendition, one these of us who noticed the stay taping in April have been ready eight months for the remainder of the world to listen to. (The 2 of them did additionally carry out it in tandem on the Newport Folks Pageant in July, so it hasn’t gone utterly unheard within the interval.)

Giddens invests the basic tune with sufficient contemporary which means that you would nearly imagine it was she who was born to sing it, not Simon. No small a part of that’s how a key couplet within the final stretch has been modified to make the ballad not a white man’s blues, with “Oh, we come on the ship they name the Mayflower / We come on the ship that sailed the moon” to “We didn’t come right here on the Mayflower / We got here on a ship in a blood pink moon.” Having been credited for the change when the tune was first performed earlier this yr, Giddens was fast to level out it was Simon’s personal doing, not hers. However no matter its inspiration, the sight of Giddens singing these new lyrics whereas she performs the banjo — as she usually factors out, an important slave instrument — as Simon picks alongside on his acoustic provides some changing-of-the-guard textual content and subtext to a tune that already stood on the pinnacle of American tune in its first kind.

Rhiannon Giddens and Paul Simon carry out on the taping for “Homeward Sure: A Grammy Salute to the Songs of Paul Simon” on the Pantages in April 2022
Chris Willman/Selection

Even with out these tweaks, “American Tune” stands as one thing that speaks to the American experiment extra profoundly on this political local weather than ever. “I don’t have a pal that feels relaxed,” Giddens sings, and you recognize she isn’t mendacity. (The “you may’t be endlessly blessed”/”get some relaxation” rhyme may have some particular resonance for anybody who’s habitually studying headlines in regards to the state of the nation going proper into Christmas week.) When Simon sings it, you are likely to think about that the arc of the universe leans towards a type of unhappy resignation; when Giddens provides her gravitas, you imagine that the change would possibly nonetheless come in spite of everything.

Moderately than return to a celebratory word to exit on, the telecast ends with Simon, solo, singing “The Sound of Silence.” His exhibits ended on that non-bang, too, earlier than he retired from the street three years in the past, so perhaps selecting so somber a word to have this particular exit on shouldn’t be a full-on threat. It nonetheless feels touching, in additional methods than might be absolutely defined, seeing Simon method the tip of his profession with a tune that outlined youthful alienation at its starting, now alluding to a deeper, better-earned state of silenzio. However as this particular exhibits, in precisely scratching the floor of what could be the most legitimately poetic of all nice American songbooks, Simon’s is a voice that may by no means actually develop silent.

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