Paul Simon made a surprise appearance at Newport Folk Festival on Saturday, sitting in with Nathaniel Rateliff & The Night Sweats for a set consisting entirely of Simon’s own songs. It marked Simon’s first-ever appearance at the storied festival, as well as a rare live performance for the veteran singer-songwriter, who previously announced his retirement from touring in 2018.
With the backing of Rateliff & The Night Sweats, Simon first performed “Graceland.” He was then joined by Rhiannon Giddens to debut a new version of “American Tune,” featuring new lyrics penned by Simon. A performance of “The Boxer” followed, with Simon joined Lucius, Lukas Nelson, Natalie Merchant, Jerry Douglas, and others. Finally, he closed his set with “The Sound of Silence.”
Prior to Simon taking the stage, Rateliff & The Night Sweats covered several more of his songs, including “Mother and Child Reunion,” “Slip Sliding Away,” “St. Judy’s Comet,” “El Condor Pasa,” “Homeward Bound,” and “Cecilia.”
“It’s been a dream of ours to bring Paul Simon to Newport Folk and truthfully having Nathaniel and The Night Sweats play such an integral part of making that happen is the essence of what it means to be Folk Family,” said Jay Sweet, Executive Producer and Director of Newport Folk, in a statement.
Watch fan-captured footage of Simon’s appearance below.