Sparked by Everlys, Simon & Garfunkel warm crowd
By Jerry Fink
Where: MGM Grand Garden Arena.
Rating (out of 5 stars): **** 1/2
A near-capacity crowd of more than 11,000 fans savored the Simon & Garfunkel ´Old Friends´ concert at the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night.
The evening was accentuated by a half dozen standing ovations and extended calls for encores by the two icons of the ´60s. The production, which took a minimalist approach to staging, was named after a tune on their 1968 album, ´Bookends.´
But the first tour in 10 years by one of the most successful folk-rock duos in pop music history easily have been billed as the ´Breaking Up Is Hard to Do´ tour.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, both 62, have been breaking up and reuniting periodically since their high school years in the mid-1950s. Their contentious relationship has been well-documented.
For their ´Friends´ tour, they chose as featured performers the Everly Brothers, another duo who has had difficulty both in staying together and remaining apart.
The Everlys, Don, 66, and Phil, 64, who began harmonizing professionally before they were teenagers, are noted for such rock/country classics as ´Bye Bye Love,´ ´Wake Up Little Susie,´ ´All I Have to Do Is Dream,´ ´Let It Be Me´ and ´When Will I Be Loved.´
They split in 1973 and went their separate ways for 10 years -- but even after reuniting in 1983, they rarely spoke offstage, traveling separately, arriving at showrooms in separate vehicles.
The brothers retired two years ago.
They only came out of retirement after Simon & Garfunkel persuaded them to join the two-month tour that began Oct. 16 in Wilkes-Barre, Pa., and will end Dec. 21 in Tampa, Fla.
Simon & Garfunkel have always credited the Everlys with being their inspiration, presumably in music, not in splitting.
An important element of the concert is Simon & Garfunkel´s homage to the Everlys, who were as pleasing to the MGM crowd as the headliners.
What a shame they chose to step out of the spotlight. They still inspire fans with their flawless harmonies.
Even though they performed only four songs, all of them from the ´50s (´Wake Up Little Susie,´ ´Dream,´ ´Let It Be Me´ and ´Bye Bye Love´), their impact was felt by an audience that include fans of all ages.
Simon & Garfunkel, similar to the the Everlys, are not limited to a certain era.
Even though there was an element of nostalgia to the evening, the songs of both duos withstand the test of time -- especially the intelligent lyrics of Simon & Garfunkel.
The two-hour concert opened with a video montage of Simon & Garfunkel as children, teens and then as adults, interspersing in the family album slides historic film and videos that captured the essence of the ´60s.
The stage was bare, but for the seven-piece band´s instruments, and two microphones on stands -- one short and one tall.
Simon wore a red T-shirt and held an acoustic guitar that seemed almost as large as he.
Garfunkel wore a long-sleeve blue shirt, sported his signature Afro and spent much of his time onstage with his hands stuffed in his pockets.
They have not lost their folk artist demeanor.
Simon & Garfunkel´s set list was mostly taken from the five albums they produced between 1964 and 1970: ´Wednesday Morning, 3 a.m.´ (1964), ´Sounds of Silence´ (1965), ´Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme´ (1966), ´Bookends´ (1968) and ´Bridge Over Troubled Water´ (1970).
The duo performed nine of the 11 songs on the ´Bridge´ album. They opened the show with ´Old Friends.´
For artists whose career was built on harmonizing, their opening effort fell short. They seemed to have a little problem getting in sync. But they gradually became more in tune with each other and by their third song, ´I Am a Rock´ (from ´Sound of Silence´) it was just like old times.
There was very little conversation during the evening, but Garfunkel did note at one point that, ´It has taken us a bunch of years to get this act together, but I couldn´t be more thrilled.´
Using humor, they acknowledged the difficulties they have had maintaining their relationship.
´We go back to the sixth grade,´ Garfunkel said. ´It´s our 50th anniversary of this thing we do.´
Simon said, ´We met at age 11, began singing together by 13 and began arguing by the time we were 14, so this is the 47th anniversary of the beginning of our arguing.´
The audience laughed and applauded.
There was a lot of applause throughout the evening, as Simon & Garfunkel sang more than 20 of their most memorable songs.
Their first set of eight tunes included such classics as ´I Am a Rock´ and ´A Hazy Shade of Winter,´ ending with ´Hey, Schoolgirl.´ ´Hey, Schoolgirl´ was a 1957 release that was a blatant attempt by the newcomers, then called Tom & Jerry, to emulate the Everly Brothers.
The duo don´t hit the high notes as easily as they did in their younger years, but fans didn´t mind. They stumbled a couple of times as they sang ´Sound of Silence,´ and still received a standing ovation.
´Scarborough Fair,´ Homeward Bound,´ and Simon´s ´Slip Slidin´ Away´ and other tunes inspired many people to rise and and wave their arms and sing along.
The pre-encore portion of the show ended with the immensely popular ´Bridge Over Troubled Water.´
Simon & Garfunkel and their band left the stage, but after prolonged applause returned for their first encore and sang ´Cecilia´ and ´The Boxer.´
They left, only to return for a second encore, singing ´Song for the Asking´ and ´The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin´ Groovy).´
The question now is, will there be encore performances by Simon & Garfunkel, or once this tour is over, is it over?