One of the good things about being old friends is that you get to have lots of anniversaries, special ways of marking the important times in life.
Paul Simon, who turned 62 a few weeks ago, and Art Garfunkel, due to cross the same threshold Wednesday, met in the sixth grade. ´With a few interruptions,´ Garfunkel said Sunday night at the Rose Garden, ´it´s now been a 50-year friendship.´
That propitious meeting is a fine milestone to mark with their latest reunion, for what´s called the Old Friends Tour, but it´s not the only beginning they have to look back on.
´We met when we were 11, started singing together when we were 13, started arguing when we were 14,´ Simon added. ´So this is the 47th anniversary of our arguing.
Regardless of the periodic spats, harmony has been the hallmark of their relationship. Musical harmony, at least. That was especially true from 1964 to 1970, when Simon´s deft, ambitious songwriting and Garfunkel´s angelic tenor blended into some of their generation´s cultural touchstones. And it was true again Sunday, as they delivered two hours of mostly gorgeous, often spirited music that -- while it may well have evoked feelings of nostalgia -- proved timelessness to be the true heart of its appeal.
Songs such as ´America,´ ´My Little Town,´ and, most dramatically, ´The Boxer´ and ´Bridge Over Troubled Water´ were reminders of the gently challenging yet firmly reassuring voice the duo provided, but showed that they by no means depend on historical context. And with the backing of a skilled seven-piece band, anchored by revered drummer Jim Keltner, the duo ranged comfortably from delicate folk fantasies such as ´Scarborough Fair´ to rockers such as ´Baby Driver´ and lively pop larks such as ´At the Zoo.´
The duo opened the show by themselves, their two voices harmonizing, appropriately, on the song ´Old Friends´ (´Can you imagine us, years from today, sharing a park bench quietly?´). Age has changed their voices, but not all that much or for the worse. Garfunkel´s voice is not so preternaturally pliant, but it has more warmth and gravity. Sometimes it was astounding that the fullness of vocal sound really was coming from just those two.
They appeared to get on fine, and Simon´s comment about arguing mostly was a set-up to introduce special guests the Everly Brothers, who took over mid-set for a few remarkably beautiful old classics (´Wake Up Little Susie,´ ´Let It Be Me´) and were joined by the headliners on ´Bye Bye Love.´
If there were any grounds for complaint, it was that the songs for the second encore -- the delicate and lesser-known ´Leaves That Are Green´ and ´The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin´ Groovy),´ whose charm has faded over time -- were anti-climactic.
Perhaps Paul and Art should argue more over the set list.