By Jeremy Miles
WHEN he first played the folk clubs around Bournemouth and Poole more than 40 years ago, Paul Simon could never have imagined the career that lay ahead.
He recalled those days from the stage of the BIC on Monday as he returned to the town, a fully-fledged superstar.
"I played in Bournemouth when I was a kid," he told the delighted audience.
The diminutive New Yorker had strolled on stage dressed like the coach of a passing baseball team.
Armed with an astonishing back catalogue of songs and an impossibly talented band, he proceeded to deliver one of the best concerts the BIC has ever seen.
Drawing on material produced over four decades he gave a performance that showed him not only to be a brilliant singer-songwriter but also a versatile musician and (more surprisingly perhaps) a compelling bandleader.
Simon may have a reputation for being reclusive, grumpy and difficult to work with but last night he was all smiles, romping through a set that included some wonderful new arrangements of instantly familiar songs - Mrs Robinson, Bridge Over Troubled Water, Slip Sliding Away, Graceland... the list seemed endless.
There was new stuff too. The beautiful Father and Daughter, the pointed How Can You live in the North East? It was a show that harnessed influences ranging from folk and rock to Township jive and accordion-driven Zydeco.
The result, as played by Simon and his seven-piece band, was hugely inventive but also highly accessible, never compromising the quality of the original songs.