Paul, Solo.

Last night we went to McCabes Guitar Shop to see Noel Paul Stookey, probably better known to most folks as the Paul in Peter, Paul, and Mary. Now, we’ve seen Peter solo before and are very familiar with his music; we of course can’t see Mary solo anymore, but we are familiar with her solo works. I knew less about Noel Paul. I have his first solo album, and a small smattering of other solo works, but I’ve never seen him in isolation before.

My conclusion? Noel Paul’s an interesting fellow (and certainly doesn’t look his age – he’s 73!). He was originally a standup comedian, and that is still a large part of his personality. He loves to tell humerous stories to the audience and just make people laugh, making wry observations on society. But he’s also much more about the music as music. Peter is more the folkie, with a standard folk feel and a singalong style, and Mary was the more sensitive but strident singer. Noel Paul was a virtuoso on the guitar, coaxing amazing music from the guitar (although he had to keep constantly retuning his instrument). He would play extremely fine and complex music, which would combine with his lyrics to be extremely moving.

This show was mostly new material for an upcoming album to be released in November. Some of the songs were simple, some were destined to be standards, and one, about two French children during the holocaust, were haunting. There were a few old standands (Virtual Party, Wedding Song, The Love of It All, Blowing in the Wind). Noel Paul’s voice has held up well; I could easily have seen him doing vocal standards, his voice is that smooth. It was interesting to contrast his audience style with that of Tom Paxton, who we saw in January. Tom has his stock routines, and pretty much sticks with them. You know what his jokes are going to be. Tom’s songs are pretty but workman. Noel Paul was joyful to be there, ecstatic to be performing for a small audience as opposed to a large concert hall (in opening, he indicated it reminded him of the days at the “Hungry i”). This made the show fun.

My one fear was that Noel Paul’s evangelicalism would come through too strong. Luckily, it didn’t. There were a few songs with Christalogical overtones I could detect, they weren’t the bulk of the show and didn’t detract from the night.

All and all, an enjoyable night.