What a show! Three moments will stay with me forever, all related to lyrics and ´pindrop listening moments´ at the cavernous United Center:
1) ´And the moon rose over an open field...´
2) ´We come in the age´s most uncertain hour
and sing an American Tune...´
3) ´Hello, hello, hello hello
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
That´s all there is.´
You could hear your own heartbeat after No. 3...
Classic songs wear well at United Center
October 26, 2003
BY JEFF WISSER Staff Reporter
They came for a museum exhibit. A church service. A family reunion.
They came to look for America, the America of their youth. The America of yesterday.
And in the midst of all this, a 50-something crowd so reverent they made the folks down at Symphony Center look like soccer hooligans witnessed an honest-to-goodness pop-rock concert breakout.
They didn´t know quite what to do about this development Friday, at the first of two sold-out Simon and Garfunkel shows at the United Center, so they sat quietly for most of the night, applauding politely at the end of each song.
You couldn´t blame the crowd for their reverence.
They paid a lot for their tickets to the Chicago stop on the Old Friends tour (as much as $300). The film montage that led into the performance was daunting. There were even some awkward moments, such as some of Art Garfunkel´s stage patter, which sounded stiff, straight out of a testimonial dinner. The re-teaming of the sometimes contentious pair has been a long time in the making. They last toured in 1982-83.
And let´s face it, nobody at the UC Friday was getting any younger.
Least of all Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon, who looked alarmingly like Sen. Joe Lieberman in a Krusty the Clown wig and Danny DeVito´s skinny brother, respectively, going through the paces of their own personal remake of Neil Simon´s ´The Sunshine Boys.´
But while time may have taken some of the essential prettiness from the countenances of the singers, it has done nothing to deface the prettiness of their songs.
Songs like the charming ´America,´ the delicate ´Scarborough Fair/Canticle,´ the affecting ´Homeward Bound´ or the still-powerful ´Sound of Silence.´ All were on the playlist and all were rendered rather faithfully by Simon, Garfunkel and the seven-piece band that backed them.
Then there were the moments when the band kicked into gear, as on the roadhouse rave-up of ´Keep the Customer Satisfied,´ the Byrds-evoking ´Hazy Shade of Winter,´ a cameo by the Everly Brothers, or, in one of the few moments that brought the crowd to its feet, that rollicking tribute to the bitter, predatory alcoholic, ´Mrs. Robinson.´
Coo coo ca-choo, indeed.
A Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour could have been many things. It could have been a purely cynical cash-in, a grab-the-loot-and-skedaddle con by a couple of aging popsters with little else to do but trot out their own personal ravages of time for the paying customers. It´s not like it hasn´t happened. In the past three months. (Are you listening, Aerosmith, Kiss and Boston?)
But, ultimately, even with a dutiful crowd that would not have been out of place in the Ravinia pavilion, Friday´s show was about something else entirely.
It was about songs, songs that long ago embedded themselves in the collective cerebral cortex. It was about the sheer simple elegance, the sometime aching beauty of blending Garfunkel and Simon´s voices. And it was about two old classmates, old friends/bookends if you will, or, really, America´s own two-man version of the Beatles, who came to town to serenade the faithful with a handful of hits that, with the possible exception of ´59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin´ Groovy),´ have held up exceptionally well.
It was a chance for Garfunkel to wrap his voice around the songs he should be singing. It was a chance for Simon to show off what he´s learned playing with more exotic ensembles in recent years. (Note to Garfunkel: When Simon starts jamming with the band, after all these years, you should find something to do with your hands other than wave to the crowd, play rhythm on your thigh or stick them in your pockets. Could you maybe pick up a guitar or a tambourine or a triangle?)
In the end, though, Friday night at the UC was about all these things and more. It was a chance for a crowd to revel in the work of people writing songs that voices too seldom share. To recall a simpler, sweeter time. To renew an old pact.
´A pocket full of mumbles, such are promises´?
Well, Friday, maybe it was just a little more than that.