By Erik Pedersen LOS ANGELES (Hollywood Reporter) -
A minute-long standing ovation greeted Simon & Garfunkel as the first spotlight hit them. It was just one of several -- each heartfelt and well-deserved -- as the reconciled old friends gave a memorable two-hour show that was awash in nostalgia but never felt dated.
The rare gig was a melange of gorgeous harmonies, reworked arrangements and unforced camaraderie that evoked much of the decades-old magic. While their sixty-something voices can´t quite elicit the bone-tingling beauty of those classic records, their show reminded that this was one of rock´s great acts.
But there were probably thousands of whispered ´uh-ohs´ as Paul Simon (news) and Art Garfunkel (news) opened with an acoustic guitar-and-voice reading of ´Old Friends.´ Simon, coming off an illness that postponed Friday´s scheduled show in Anaheim, was tentative and a little hoarse. Garfunkel seemed unsteady. They were off to a shaky start.
A double shot from 1966 quickly turned the tide. The crack seven-piece band kicked up ´A Hazy Shade of Winter,´ which must have been harder than many in the graybeard crowd had rocked in years, if not decades. A meatier but slower version of ´I Am a Rock´ followed, and it was obvious that the singers had just needed a little warm-up. Things went from dicey to dynamic.
Simon & Garfunkel´s trademark simultaneous lead vocals, often sung a half-beat apart, never faltered after the early roughness, and their storied bickering was ancient history this night. They stood shoulder to shoulder, belting out one splendid song after another as the SRO crowd joined in. And you believed Garfunkel when he introduced ´America´ by saying, ´I´m sorry it took so long to get here, but I couldn´t be more thrilled.´
Both shared stories of the early days -- from their first meeting in a sixth-grade production of ´Alice in Wonderland´ to their impoverished ´busking´ days in London. The show even included a little old-school shtick. Garfunkel: ´We met in 1953, so this is really our 50th anniversary tour.´ Simon: ´We met when we were 11, started singing together when we were 13 and started arguing when we were 14. So this is really our 47th anniversary of arguing.´ Garfunkel: ´But we don´t argue anymore.´ Simon: ´Now we just say, ´That´s your opinion, and I respect that.´´ They followed that with a snippet from ´Hey, Schoolgirl,´ their 1957 near-hit when they were billed as Tom & Jerry. Priceless.
The duo´s 1950s idols, the Everly Brothers, took the stage for a mini-set that featured a fiery ´Wake Up Little Susie,´ its fretting teen angst replaced with a honky-tonk swagger. Simon & Garfunkel joined the brothers and the band for an animated ´Bye Love,´ which wrapped the terrific four-song side dish.
Then it was back to the classic readings of classic S&G songs, highlighted by Garfunkel´s whispery falsetto on a gorgeous, cello-assisted ´Scarborough Fair.´ But the many tweaked arrangements also clicked all night: the jazzy tropicalia on ´Homeward Bound,´ a dramatic intro to ´El Condor Pasa (If I Could),´ some boogie piano on ´Baby Driver,´ an extended funky break in their 1975 reunion hit ´My Little Town.´ Even the iconic ´Mrs. Robinson´ broke down into a bashing jam, powered by Jim Keltner, the no-spotlight star whose precision drumming never fails to impress.
There was a palpable anticipation during the intro to ´Bridge Over Troubled Water,´ and Garfunkel didn´t disappoint. You could almost see him reach down -- as he had only during ´The Sounds of Silence´ midset -- to summon the stirring climatic lines and notes. Another standing O.
The encores included a playful, rousing take on ´Cecilia´ and a typically mournful ´The Boxer,´ which remains among their most affecting songs.
There´s no denying that this was professional show business -- with the sentimental video montages, prearranged set list, prepared shtick and nary a missed cue -- but there was no oily slickness, just wonderful singing and playing and plenty of comfy nostalgia. It was an all-timer that certainly kept the customers satisfied.