Everly Brothers provide needed tonic for Simon & Garfunkel
By Steve Morse, Globe Staff, 12/12/2003
If you were seeking a warm-and-fuzzy reunion, this wasn´t it. Art Garfunkel initiated a couple of hugs -- one at the beginning, one at the end -- but too often, Paul Simon and Garfunkel seemed to sing from different universes last night. There was almost no eye contact between these two New York legends, who are on their first official reunion tour in 20 years.
Vocally, Simon & Garfunkel gave the sold-out FleetCenter crowd one classic song after another. But Simon, at least for the first half of the evening, got by purely on stoic professionalism. It was a low-energy, lackluster performance from him (was he sick -- did he have the flu?), though he finally found a pulse and the second half of this long-awaited show was a far superior ride to the first.
Simon´s wake-up call came when the Everly Brothers, a profound influence on Simon & Garfunkel in their youth, came out to sing three songs midway through the concert. The Everlys were on fire compared to the icy aloofness of S&G as they ripped through the rockabilly-flavored ´Wake Up Little Susie,´ followed by gorgeous ballads ´All I Have to Do is Dream´ and ´Let It Be Me.´ The Everlys, who have had their own differences through the years, put them aside and shone brilliantly.
Thankfully, Simon shed his igloo-like state when he and Garfunkel joined the Everlys for a romp through ´Bye Bye Love,´ with the crowd delivering the first standing ovation of the night. And Simon was much better after that, finding his voice on ´Scarborough Fair´ and ´Homeward Bound,´ and really coming alive on ´Mrs. Robinson.´ It drew another standing ovation and was accompanied by video clips of Dustin Hoffman in ´The Graduate,´ the ´60s film for which the song was originally written.
Video clips of the ´60s also opened the night, interspersing shots of Simon & Garfunkel in their halcyon days, along with politically charged clips of a rally for the equal rights amendment. It was a reminder that S&G were also countercultural icons back then, not just folk-pop singers with a gift for high harmonies.
Last night´s first song was ´Old Friends,´ which is also the name of the tour, though its meaning wasn´t totally affirmed by the distance between the two ´friends´ last night. A very trebly sound mix also marred early portions of the show, as the six-piece backing band struggled to get in synch. For the most part, Simon & Garfunkel sounded better on sparse acoustic songs than the electric, orchestrated numbers that tended to be overly arranged and missed some of the crisp heart of the original S&G recordings.
There was also too much reinterpretation, at least to my ears. Bob Dylan has taken his lumps for reinterpreting his material (sometimes to the point of incomprehension), and while S&G didn´t go that far, they did throw in different wrinkles on ´I Am a Rock´ (extending a couple of vocal lines unnecessarily), ´At the Zoo´ (with guitarist Mark Stuart, adding some untasty flash), and the sonic Holy Grail itself, ´The Sound of Silence,´ which was slowed down too much.
Much more satisfying were concluding numbers such as ´American Tune´ (still relevant after all these years), ´Bridge Over Troubled Water´ (with Garfunkel glistening on the high notes), and ´The Boxer,´ which the revitalized Simon aced with the emotional depth that we expect from him. The night ended beautifully, but needed more consistency.
Simon and Garfunkel reunion is rare treat
By Larry Katz
Friday, December 12, 2003
While they´re certainly older, they haven´t always been friends. But Paul
Simon and Art Garfunkel, on their first tour together in 20 years, kicked
off their FleetCenter performance last night sweetly harmonizing about being
``Can you imagine us years from today
Sharing a park bench quietly?
How terribly strange to be 70.´´
In the 35 years since Simon and Garfunkel first sang ``Old Friends´´ on
``Bookends,´´ they haven´t always been on speaking terms. But the childhood
schoolmates from Queens, New York, now 62, have reconciled to the delight of
their middle-aged fans, who paid up to $250 for the chance to see what could
be their last reunion - or, at least, what could be their last before they
really are 70.
There was no escaping the nostalgia of the event, especially after an
opening video montage that mingled shots of Simon and Garfunkel through the
years with notable world events of the past five decades.
But while the duo´s folk-rock songs, all written by Simon, inevitably
recalled years past, a crack seven-piece band led by string wizard Mark
Stewart and anchored by all-world drummer Jim Keltner and bassist Pino
Palladino (last seen as John Entwistle´s replacement in the Who) helped
shake off any accumulated dust. Starting with the night´s second number,
``Hazy Shade of Winter,´´ and continuing on ``Homeward Bound´´ replete with
expansive guitar solos, ``Mrs. Robinson´´ and ``Keep the Customer
Satisfied,´´ Simon and Garfunkel actually rocked.
In their between song patter, Simon and Garfunkel didn´t ignore their
sometimes acrimonious relationship, they made light of it. ``I´m thrilled to
be here before you tonight,´´ an affable Garfunkel said with a glance at the
stonefaced Simon. ``Paul I don´t know about.´´
Simon finally spoke later. He reminisced about first meeting Garfunkel
in an elementary school production of ``Alice in Wonderland.´´ By way of
explaining their current rapprochement, Simon said dryly, ``Now we don´t
argue anymore. We say, `That´s your opinion and I respect that.´ ´´
Simon then led the way into a brief rendition of the duo´s first
recording from 1957 when the 16-year-olds called themselves Tom and Jerry:
an Everly Brothers soundalike called ``Hey Schoolgirl.´´ And as if by magic,
their role models Don and Phil Everly walked onstage and did three songs
(``Wake Up Little Susie,´´ ``All I Have to Do Is Dream´´ and ``Let It Be
Me´´) before Simon and Garfunkel joined them for a rousing ``Bye Bye Love.´´
When Simon and Garfunkel took charge once again following this harmony
duo summit session, it was disconcerting to notice that, despite their
amiability, they never exchange a smile or even a look when singing
No matter. The blend of their voices remains a signature sound of late
20th century American pop, Garfunkel´s once-pure tenor pleasingly frayed by
age and Simon´s low parts rendered with casual confidence. They even did two
of Simon´s solo songs from the ´70s, ``Slip Slidin´ Away´´ and ``American
Tune,´´ to answer the question of what Simon and Garfunkel might have
sounded like if they hadn´t gone their separate ways in 1970.
Ending their set with ``Bridge Over Troubled Water,´´ they returned for
a first encore of ``Cecilia´´ and ``The Boxer,´´ and then for another,
ending the night with ``Leaves That Are Green´´ and ``The 59th Street Bridge
Song (Feelin´ Groovy).´´ The songs may have been familiar, but the
opportunity to hear them performed by these on-and-off old friends was truly
a rare occasion.
( Simon and Garfunkel, with the Everly Brothers, at the FleetCenter, last
night. Second show tomorrow. )