WHEN Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel get together for a stroll down memory lane, the experience is more than just cheap nostalgia and a laundry list of hits.
Many of the duo´s songs are so much than mere pop tunes -- they´re touchstones for a generation.
Most middle-age folks in the sold-out crowd at San Jose´s HP Pavilion Tuesday night remembered where they were in 1968 when they first heard ´Mrs. Robinson.´
And everyone there, from the senior citizens -- and there were senior citizens -- to the 10-year-olds will remember Simon and Garfunkel singing ´Mrs. Robinson´ and more than two dozen other songs on the first night of their three Bay Area stops on the ´Old Friends´ reunion tour.
The show continued Wednesday in San Jose and moves to the Oakland Arena tonight.
Friends since the sixth grade, when they were in a production of ´Alice in Wonderland´ together, Simon and Garfunkel are now both 62 (Garfunkel´s birthday was Wednesday). The hair may be thinner and the faces more lined, but the voices are unmistakable.
Garfunkel still has the sweet sound of a choir boy on the verge of tears, and Simon still covers the lower range with his distinctive power.
Paul and Artie -- that´s how familiar they are to us -- have weathered the years reasonably well. After decades of on-again, off-again discord, the friends are back together and doing what they should be doing: resurrecting and celebrating their significant slice of American pop music history.
For a relaxed and harmonious two hours, Simon, in his customary jeans and T-shirt (but no baseball cap), and Garfunkel, in an untucked white dress shirt, tie and black slacks, sang all their familiar tunes and even seemed to have a little fun.
Garfunkel noted that this year marks the 50th anniversary of the pair´s first meeting, while the usually dour Simon wryly noted that it was also the 47th anniversary of their first argument.
Beginning with an acoustic ´Old Friends,´ the duo then shook things up with ´A Hazy Shade of Winter´ joined by their seven-piece band.
´I Am a Rock´ became an arena-sized anthem, and a powerful ´America´ segued into a goofy medley of ´At the Zoo´ and ´Baby Driver.´
Recalling their early days as failed rock ´n´ rollers Tom and Jerry, Simon said the goal was to sound as good as the Everly Brothers.
Cue special guests Phil and Don Everly to step out for a mini-set of their greatest hits.
The Everlys sounded almost as good as Simon and Garfunkel, who joined the brothers for a rambunctious sing-along on ´Bye Bye Love.´
A stage full of rock ´n´ roll history rarely has been this exciting.
With Simon and Garfunkel sounding so good together, a crowded, over-loud arena seems the wrong venue, but at this late date, a coffeehouse is out of the question. Someplace more intimate like Oakland´s Paramount Theatre would be ideal but much less profitable.
When it was just Simon´s guitar and the duo´s trademark harmonies, as on ´Kathy´s Song,´ ´Scarborough Fair´ and the first half of ´The Sound of Silence,´ the effect was timeless -- even in an arena, surrounded by thousands of your closest friends.
Mixed in with Simon and Garfunkel standards such as ´Homeward Bound´ and ´The Boxer´ were several of Simon´s solo hits, wisely reconfigured as duets.
´When I wrote this, I thought it would make a great Simon and Garfunkel song,´ Simon said of ´Slip Slidin´ Away.´ ´But we were already broken up, and I didn´t care.´
He should have cared. Both ´Slip Slidin´´ and ´American Tune´ were much improved with the addition of Garfunkel´s harmony.
To keep things interesting, Paul and Artie included some of their less-popular songs, like ´Leaves That Are Green,´ which they said they hadn´t sung live since 1967. They also sang ´The Only Living Boy in New York,´ a driving ode to loneliness that Simon said he wrote when Garfunkel left him to make the 1969 movie ´Catch-22´ in Mexico.
An extraordinarily moving ´Bridge Over Troubled Water´ closed the set and pushed both singers into their most impassioned vocals of the evening. At the end of two encores, the ecstatic crowd, like the singers, was feelin´ more than groovy.
Hearing Simon and Garfunkel together again recalls, to borrow a line from ´Bookends,´ ´a time of innocence, a time of confidences.´
In only two hours of music, the duo managed to conjure more than three decades of memories, associations and confidences. In 1967, Simon wrote, ´preserve your memories; they´re all that´s left you.´ That´s true. We have plenty of memories, and many of them happen to be preserved in Simon and Garfunkel songs.