Tuesday, July 5

Something about Simon – Altrincham Garrick Playhouse

“Hello darkness, my old friend”

Never was a refrain such a perfect welcome to a show, as audiences slowly start to return to theatres. As the house lights go down, an unassuming figure strolls out, picks up his guitar and brings the full attention of the audience centre-stage, as he plucks out the iconic strains of ‘Sound of Silence’.

In this one-man show, singer-songwriter Gary Edward Jones takes the audience on a journey through the catalogue and life story of Paul Simon, known to the majority as one half of folk megastars, Simon and Garfunkel, as well as in his own right as a solo artist.

In just shy of 90 minutes, we are treated to some of the biggest songs of a generation, allowing the audience to rediscover much loved classics, as well as some hidden gems from the star troubadour’s song book. 

Jones is a charming host, talking through his idol’s history with the warmth and in-depth knowledge of a true super-fan. (Did you know Paul Simon married Princess Leia?)

Despite the simplicity of his ‘man in black’ jeans and t-shirt combo, he is blessed with a superb voice that lifts the show well above your average pub tribute act.

Songs such as ‘Mrs Robinson’, ’50 Ways to leave your lover’, and a version of ‘Shades of Winter’ that overshadows Simon’s own version, have the audience grooving in their seats, with polite applause for early numbers evolving into whoops and cheers later in the show and an impromptu, gentle joining in (they were wearing masks after all) with the ‘lie la lies’ in ‘The Boxer’. 

It’s a lovely re-visiting of Simon’s greatest hits but it also highlights the biggest flaw of the show. Whilst cartoonish cut-outs of TV cameras, benches and record players are dotted round the stage, spotlighted at various points to underpin certain anecdotes, the show is lacking a distinct sense of theatricality to make it more than just a ‘gig’.

We see occasional flashes in some of the anecdotes, for example when Jones embellishes his own Liverpudlian lilt to bring certain characters in Simon’s story to life.  But there’s an argument that the music is strong enough to strip the stage set back completely and drop the contrived visuals, which add very little to proceedings.

The single guitar also, whilst lovely, does take on a lullaby quality and, with most of the famous songs dispatched in the first half of the show, risks putting the audience into a bit of a stupor, only bringing everyone out with a heart-felt rendition of ‘Bridge over Troubled Water’ at the end, before a rousing version of ‘Wristband’ as an encore.

Ultimately, how much you’ll enjoy the show comes down to how much of a fan you are of Simon’s work. For fans, it’s a fantastic burst of nostalgia. For others, it’s an enjoyable musical romp that will certainly get toes tapping but struggles to really find its identity as gig or theatre. https://www.somethingaboutsimon.com/

Reviewer: Lou Steggals

Reviewed: 6th July 2021

North West End UK Rating: ★★★