Photo: Rick Farrell

Saturday, July 23 at the 2022 Newport Folk Festival was a day to be remembered. The festival was overdue for a big surprise performance, and Saturday’s appearance by Paul Simon certainly fit the bill.

There were some hints earlier in the year when Nathaniel Rateliff announced the “American Tune Review,” as a planned festival set. (One of Simon’s most popular songs is “American Tune.”) But there were no guarantees, as festival performers have often covered classic albums without the original artist present.

Rateliff’s closing set on Saturday began as a well-curated series of Simon tunes from the Denver-based singer and his band The Nightsweats.

The band rocked out on “Kodachrome” and “Me and Julio,” before several guests who had played earlier in the day joined them on stage. Lucius provided sweet vocals on “Mother and Child Reunion” and Lee Fields offered a soulful “50 Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Natalie Merchant, another surprise guest at Newport, was backed by members of the Silk Road Ensemble for a poignant take on “El Condor Pasa” while Lukas Nelson offered a heartfelt “Homeward Bound.”

As the set was winding down, Simon was introduced to an enthusiastic crowd – all of those assembled recognized the importance of the moment. One of America’s greatest songwriters, who has more or less retired from touring, was in the fort.

Simon was on top of his game during his four-song outing. He led the band (and the crowd, singing along to every word) through a rousing “Graceland,” and then brought out Rhiannon Giddens who took the vocal lead on “American Tune,” reworking the lyrics to better reflect her historical narrative. (“We didn’t come here on The Mayflower/ “We came on a ship in a blood red moon.”) Simon then led the band through “The Boxer,” before finishing with a moving solo performance of “Sounds of Silence.” Listening to his music, you realize how important a part of the modern American songbook Paul Simon’s songs have become.

With a living legend in the house, it was easy to forget a day that featured a generation of rising stars. There were several strong sets from indie folk bands like Ballroom Thieves, Madi Diaz, Midlake, and Icelandic star Arny Margret. Lacy Dacus rocked the Fort Stage and the Black Opry Revue brought some of Nashville’s leading African American artists to Newport.

I’m not sure how the festival can outdo itself on Sunday for Day 3 but they always seem to find a way. Meanwhile, check out some Day 2 photos from WUN photographer Rick Farrell and Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams.

Ken Abrams

Lifestyle Editor Ken Abrams writes about music and more for What'sUpNewp, Providence Monthly, SO RI, and The Bay. He DJ's "The Kingston Coffeehouse" Tuesday nights, 6-9 PM on WRIU 90.3 FM.

Rick Farrell

​Rick Farrell of Mojo Photography has been drawn to music his entire life. Maybe it was growing up in Newport, RI, host to the venerable Newport Jazz and Folk festivals. Or maybe it was the countless hours listening to his older siblings' classic LP's and 45's on the stereo in the 1960's. Whatever the reason, there has always been a strong connection.

He had originally taken up photography as a hobby, eventually gravitating towards shooting professionally in 2007. Never knowing what his true passion or niche was, proved to be very frustrating to say the least. Then in 2009 he shot a concert, and everything seemed to click. He had discovered his passion! Concert photography!

He considers himself fortunate to have photographed shows at some of the premier venues in New England, including Fenway Park and Gillette Stadium. He has literally photographed hundreds of shows, including some of the biggest acts in today’s music industry. He has photographed many esteemed festivals including the New Orleans Jazz Festival, Newport Folk Festival, Newport Jazz Festival, and Farm Aid. His work has been published in numerous outlets locally, regionally, and nationally.

Musically, he loves everything from rock to country, jazz, R&B, pop, and classical. There is no greater feeling for him than capturing a moment on stage for others to enjoy for posterity. Whatever your taste, his goal is to provide "music for your eyes."