Harmony reunites old friends
ALBANY -- Old friends, indeed.
Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have laid their famous arguments aside, at least for awhile, and are touring together -- in harmony! -- for the first time in 20 years. Thursday night the duo opened the second leg of its ´Old Friends´ tour at the Pepsi Arena, with the tune that gives the trek its title.
´Can you imagine us years from today,´ the song asks, ´sharing a park bench quietly, how terribly strange to be seventy.´
It won´t be long before the sixty-something Simon & Garfunkel hit that mark, and as they noted at the Pepsi, 2004 marks the 50th anniversary of their friendship.
But it wasn´t just a trip down memory lane for the singers. The duo´s music is also a powerful part of the lives of the thousands of baby boomer fans who plunked down big bucks to be at the Pepsi.
It´s a sure bet that few were disappointed, but Thursday´s hit-packed show was not exactly a stellar performance.
The sound lacked crispness, and even though the vocals were finally mixed to an appropriate level late in the evening, the crack band wanted for more definition in the swim of the arena.
More problematic was the energy level of the stars. Garfunkel seemed genuinely pleased to be back in front of such a big crowd, but Simon´s attention -- to both the crowd and his own singing -- waxed and waned.
When they were present in the moment the old magic sparked -- especially in the quieter sections of ´Homeward Bound,´ ´The Sound of Silence´ and ´I Am A Rock;´ and the bridge of ´Bridge Over Troubled Water.´
The biggest treats were the few numbers delivered solely as a duo, including ´Old Friends,´ a snippet of ´Hey Schoolgirl,´ ´Kathy´s Song´ and a gentle encore of ´Leaves That Are Green.´
On the edgier side, ´Hazy Shade of Winter´ and ´Mrs. Robinson´ actually rocked and ´My Little Town´ even crackled.
About a third of the way through the concert Simon & Garfunkel invited the Everly Brothers out for an all too brief guest set. Phil and Don showed why they were such an influence on the young Paul and Art. Their harmonies sparkled and they jumped at their songs as if they were playing them for the first time -- even if Don´s legendary rhythm guitar was frustratingly low on the mix.
After the Everlys knocked out ´Wake Up Little Susie,´ ´All I Have To Do Is Dream´ and ´Let It Be Me,´ Simon & Garfunkel joined them for a rousing gang sing of ´Bye Bye Love.´
Simon & Garfunkel finished the night with a crowd-pleasing brace of encores including ´Cecilia,´ ´The Boxer´ and ´59th Street Bridge Song.´
SIMON & GARFUNKEL with special guest The Everly Brothers When: 8 p.m. ThursdayWhere: Pepsi Arena, Pearl Street, AlbanyHighlights: Paul and Art were joined by Phil and Don Everly for a gang sing on the Felice and Boudleaux Bryant classic ´Bye Bye Love.´The crowd: About 14,000 baby boomers plunked down big bunks to take a trip down memory lane with Simon & Garfunkel.
The concert in Albany last night was fantastic. They sang the same songs they did during the Fall tour, but the arrangements to some of the songs were different. Paul played the melody to SOS on the guitar before they sang the song. It was brilliant!. Then they sang SOS like Art sings it in his Across America cd. I love that version. The arena was rocking on Baby Driver, Mrs Robinson, Cecelia and Keep the Customer Satisfied. We loved American Tune and Kathy´s Song, both bringing tears to my eyes. Bridge was great with Paul singing the second verse again and really getting into it. Art was very exuberant and really into the songs.The banter was slightly different and seemed more at ease than in the Fall. The concert was dedicated to Ray Charles.
Thanks for listening, CY
I had lucked into a ticket to this show. Not just any ticket either, but a box ticket. There was a pretty good view of the stage. There was an extra charge in the air before the concert, and it started with a great video on a large screen while the band played a long opening to ´America´. Then you heard the two chords that begin ´Old Friends´, and there they were. It was a little surreal seeing these two on stage. They sounded good, you might say after all the changes they sounded more or less the same. Paul´s voice is a bit heavier than it once was, and Art´s is more airy. It was impressive though to hear Garfunkel sing some of those higher harmonies. His voice broke only once, I think it was in a chorus of ´I am a Rock´. He recovered instantly. Garfunkel´s singing was mesmerizing and ethereal, singing lightly for the most part, but also bringing in a full voice when the music called for it. Paul was impressive when he took the second verse of ´Bridge over Troubled Water´. Artie had sang a beautiful first verse. But Paul really rang the rafters on the second verse, showing what a powerful natural tenor he is. He wrenched every heart in the place when he sang that verse, and it really stood out as the high point of the show.
There was quite a lot of emotion in the air during this show, so much that is was almost overwhelming at times. Albany has a lot of love for S&G.
There were some nice surprises as well. Of course the big one was the Everly Brothers´ appearance. Their vocal blend was actually much better than S&G´s. The Everlies sounded like one voice, and of course their music is right out of a time capsule. You could say time travel was a theme of the night anyway. There were numerous other pleasant surprises. ´Homeward Bound´ unexpectedly turned into a very Grateful Dead sounding jam before coming to a close. The band was amazing, as Paul´s band always is. They were able to conjure the arrangements from the old albums perfectly, as well as cut loose from time to time. The multi-instrumentalist Mark Stewart really looked like he was living a dream playing those songs.
Some have said that the humor between S&G seemed stilted, but I didn´t see that in Albany. I think that observation has to do with telling jokes from a stage to a packed stadium. On video it may seem off-time, but from the stage to the audience it worked and they got plenty of laughs. They were quite funny. It was a similar routine to what you see in the 2003 DVD, but I seem to remember they added or changed a few jokes and details.
One strange moment was the opening of Sounds of Silence. For some reason, Garfunkel thought it would be cool to go a bit backstage, leaving Paul playing the intro, and then Garfunkel walks up to the mic in a sort of dramatic entrance to sing ´Hello darkness my old friend...´. It didn´t quite work as intended, but by the time you realized how corny the entrance was, you didn´t care because they were singing ´Sounds of Silence´ together.
A pleasant surprise for me was towards the end of the show, they did ´Leaves that are Green´ without the band. Just Paul and the guitar, and Artie with his pointy Garfunkel shoes. It is a very light song, but with all those years behind them there was a sense of wisdom to it where before it was mostly youthful longing.
To sum it up, it was a great show, one of the best I´ve ever seen. It was also nice to see a lot of people there who you kind of got the impression didn´t go to many concerts. Old and young, rich and...lucky.