Simon & Garfunkel didn´t surprise last night at the Gaylord Entertainment Center. They weren´t supposed to.
Anyone who had snooped around on various Internet sites could have secured a set list, which was the same in Philadelphia, Cincinnati or Buffalo as it was in Nashville. Anyone could have surmised that Art Garfunkel would be gracious and involved, and most would have hoped that Paul Simon would, at least, act like the whole ordeal was more fun than a trip to the dentist.
Nostalgia was the order of the evening, and nostalgia can be a powerful thing when added to a set of era-defining, Simon-penned songs and bolstered with gorgeous harmony.
´´This is an early song. They´re all early songs,´´ a stone-faced Simon said, introducing Leaves That Are Green at the onset of a second encore. Leaves was among the most obscure compositions in a night that included runs through hits including Homeward Bound, Sounds of Silence, Mrs. Robinson, Bridge Over Troubled Water and The Boxer.
This was, as Simon has made clear, intended as a ´´goodbye´´ tour. The arrangements were crisp and the performances were, at times, exultant. The show began with an acoustic performance of Old Friends, with Garfunkel singing high harmonies while Simon sang underneath and played characteristically beautiful guitar.
From there, the show progressed into something less than revelatory yet never less than heartfelt. Though Simon wrote most of the songs, Garfunkel gave the most in performance, delivering Simon´s melodies and lyrics with the ardor of someone who had been sufficiently moved.
Onstage, Simon seemed more than ´´a rock´´ or ´´an island,´´ as he played acoustic guitar with the feeling of one who fully comprehended and appreciated the emotions that run through Kathy´s Song, Homeward Bound and Bridge Over Troubled Water.
Mid-set, Simon & Garfunkel brought Country Music Hall of Fame duo The Everly Brothers onstage for four songs: Wake Up Little Susie, Dream, Let It Be Me and Bye Bye Love. The Everlys´ inclusion was intended as a nod to Simon & Garfunkel´s heroes and as an acknowledgment of the headlining duo´s debt to 1950s rock ´n´ roll.
Simon & Garfunkel also owe a debt to each other, though neither´s obligation was sufficiently acknowledged last night. Garfunkel´s sweet-but-sandy, gorgeous voice has always been a wondrous conduit for Simon´s lyrics and melodies, and Garfunkel is assuredly glad that he happened upon a composer of Simon´s magnitude.
´How terribly strange to be 70,´ sang the duo, in the show-opening Old Friends. That´s a true sentiment, yet not so far removed from the 62-year-old players. The audience seemed sufficiently stultified by the implications of that song, while remaining happy to clap along to lighter fare like At The Zoo and The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feeling Groovy).
It´s pretty easy to sing when the songs are this good, Garfunkel said, and he was right on target. Garfunkel´s partner may have written better songs (see Hearts and Bones and The Late, Great Johnny Ace for details), but he never wrote anything that resonated more than the compositions he wrote to sing with his childhood friend.