In front of a packed Toyota Center audience in Houston, Texas, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel appeared on stage after a short video projected scenes from our nation´s recent history and images of the duo from boyhood to manhood. Opening with ´Old Friends/Bookends,´ the classic lyric that sang, ´ ... how terribly strange to be 70,´ rung a peculiar chord with the audience that included life-long Simon & Garfunkel fans and a whole new generation of teenagers in the midst of discovering and appreciating the great works of Simon, one of America´s greatest songwriters.
The solemn ode to time and friendship was immediately followed by a string of hits, including a rocking ´Hazy Shade Of Winter,´ a Bob Dylan-influenced ´I Am A Rock,´ and an almost perfect rendition of ´America,´ one of the greatest songs the duo ever recorded. Garfunkel greeted the crowd with a warm welcome saying, ´And finally, it´s Houston!´
A medley followed that included an odd pairing of ´At The Zoo´ and ´Baby Driver,´ but after the mini-jam session with S&G´s seven-piece band concluded, Garfunkel rang supreme on ´Kathy´s Song,´ a tune he heralded as ´Paul´s greatest love song.´
Chatter followed as the duo, whose members are now both 62, joked about how they met, their highly publicized arguments and their mutual respect for each other at the present time. An audience member belted, ´Welcome home, boys!´ Simon, a New Yorker, replied, ´Welcome home? When are you guys gonna give us Roger Clemens (former New York Yankees pitcher now with the Houston Astros) back?!´
After a laugh from the crowd, he introduced the first song the duo ever recorded as the Everly Brothers-influenced Tom & Jerry, ´Hey Schoolgirl.´ After singing a few verses, Simon welcomed the duo´s idols to the stage, Don and Phil Everly.
Opening with ´Wake Up Little Suzie,´ the brothers sang through ´50s hits like ´Dream´ and ´Let It Be Me.´ They were finally joined on stage by the stars of the evening as Simon, Garfunkel, Everly and Everly jammed to ´Bye, Bye Love,´ a tune S&G included on their Grammy-winning last album BRIDGE OVER TROUBLED WATER.
The Everly´s left the stage to let S&G take over - and the folk-rock duo did just that. Every favorite was played, including ´Scarborough Fair,´ ´Homeward Bound,´ a hair-raising rendition of the group´s first hit ´The Sound of Silence,´ and ´Mrs. Robinson,´ which was preceded by scenes on the video screen from the classic S&G soundtrack-laden film THE GRADUATE.
Only two Paul Simon solo pieces were recreated by S&G: ´Slip Slidin´ Away´ and ´American Tune.´ But the showstopper was undoubtedly the shared performance of ´Bridge Over Troubled Water.´
One of Simon´s greatest songs, but also one of his greatest curses, the duo´s history of tension can be epitomized by the reason of the success of this tune. While wonderfully written, it was Garfunkel who lent his angelic tenor to the recording, making it one of the most loved songs the group ever produced. But Simon´s genius was often overlooked upon the song´s performance until the duo split in 1970 and Simon began performing the song on his own.
This recent reunion´s performances of ´Bridge´ have included Garfunkel on the opening verse, Simon on the second verse, then the two harmonizing on the climactic third verse. The performance received an immediate standing ovation from the audience as S&G took their bows before their first encore.
The duo returned to perform a jubilant ´Cecilia´ and the epic ´The Boxer´ before leaving the stage again. The crowd eventually brought them back for a final encore that included the obscure but lovely ´Leaves That Are Green´ and concluded with the playful ´59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin´ Groovy).´
In comparison to the winter shows in 2003, Simon & Garfunkel were impeccable on this July 7 evening, turning in a nearly perfect two-hour set. The duo sounded rehearsed and intent on performing a quality show as opposed to two old men past their prime singing old songs they used to play to make a living. While the last winter´s shows (judging by the Wilkes-Barre, Boston and Washington performances) took a while for S&G to lock into each other on stage, tonight´s performance featured a duo harmony sound they probably haven´t reproduced since 1981´s Concert In Central Park.
Simon´s playing was astute and his vocals concentrated on a melody set for Garfunkel´s creative harmonies. Even the band worked hard to create a fully polished ensemble, highlighted by Mark Stewart´s guitar and cello solos, and Warren Bernhardt´s piano playing.
All in all, Simon & Garfunkel gave Houstonians an evening full of memorable songs presented with sweet performances. With a 12-show stint across the pond on the horizon, it´s safe to say S&G is ready to blow Europe away.
July 8, 2004, 12:48AM
Simon & Garfunkel are back in harmony
By MICHAEL D. CLARK
Copyright 2004 Houston Chronicle
The irony of Simon & Garfunkel opening their first Houston concert in 34 years with the subtle strum of Old Friends could not have been lost on the near-capacity crowd at the Toyota Center Wednesday night.
The joke certainly wasn´t lost on Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel, two iconic folkies who sang about peace in the ´60s, but have spent the following decades squabbling and staying away from each other.
On Wednesday one of rock ´n´ roll´s most dubiously celebrated feuds was put aside for a night of Simon & Garfunkel hits, solo gems and a short set by the duo´s mentors, the Everly Brothers. It was a historic event and made one feel gratified to have been there and puzzled as to why to ´old friends´ couldn´t get it together enough to get back to Houston before this. They hadn´t performed together here since 1968.
If Simon and Garfunkel truly were the best of buds, the fact that this reunion tour, their first since 1983, wouldn´t be nearly the historic rock ´n´ roll event it has become. Five years ago, the idea that the new millennium would ever see the most celebrated folk rockers of the ´60s whip through 23 songs was fantasy.
At the duo´s Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inception several years ago, Simon said he had hoped that he and Garfunkel could iron out their differences. He quickly added, ´No rush.´
On Wednesday, Simon & Garfunkel sang songs that marked time in voices that sound preserved by science.
´So it´s Houston at last,´ Garfunkel said. ´I know it´s taken us years to get this together, but I´m thrilled to be in your town.´
Simon and Garfunkel, both 62 years old, finally let bygones be bygones.
One thing´s for sure. If this was their last stand, they went out on an Art Garfunkel-like high note.
The show opened with a timeline of Simon & Garfunkel family pictures interspersed with the historic moments that paralleled their friendship that began in elementary school. In the ´50s it was clean-cut school boys performing as Tom & Jerry cut with shots of Mickey Mantle hitting for the New York Yankees. The ´60s era that made them legends showed Equal Rights marches and Neil Armstrong landing on the moon. The short film ended at the steps of the Toyota Center last night.
Appearing in front of two center stage mics, Wednesday´s version of Old Friends began as a low warble with only Simon´s acoustic guitar for accompaniment. It sounded like age might have taken a slight toll on their voices until Garfunkel let the first soaring notes of his tenor rise above the strum. All of a sudden the nostalgia of the ´60s came alive for baby boomers, while those who came after got a taste of the experience.
While Simon & Garfunkel are considered mellow, on songs like America and At The Zoo the diminutive Simon demonstrated how he could still straddle a phantom pony and throw his guitar around for punctuation. I Am a Rock from 1966´s Sounds of Silence is proof-positive of just how much more powerful these two voices are together than apart.
They could rock, but Simon & Garfunkel were rooted in the traditions of socially conscious and journal entry folk. Kathy´s Song, about their days busking in England, is not one of their best-known. With Garfunkel crooning alone on a stool and Simon behind him strumming light strings, it turned out to be one of the most beautiful arrangements of the evening.
´It´s very easy to sing when the songs are that good,´ Garfunkel said in a gesture of kindness to songwriter Simon.
This tour is supposed to be about ´old friends´ Simon & Garfunkel, but the four-song set by the Everlys, including Wake Up Little Susie, Dream and Let It Be Me was a showcase for just how well this influential duo has kept in excellent voice.
The Everly Brothers invited Simon & Garfunkel back on stage for their final song, Bye Bye Love. It was one of those moments that you know cannot be topped. The headliners tried, however, pulling out all the stops for the show´s second half.
The ominous hum of Scarborough Fair gave way to Simon & Garfunkel´s phantom vocals, triangle chimes and bubbling sounds used as percussive accessories. A brushed shimmy on a snare introduced Homeward Bound, another song from 1966´s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme. Simon´s guitar solo and piano vamp left Garfunkel a bit of a spectator. It was the first song of the night that felt like it belonged solely to Simon. More followed: his post-S&G solo work, Slip Slidin´ Away and American Tune.
The Toyota Center crowd concentrated for the entire evening, but stirring renditions of The Sound of Silence, Mrs. Robinson and Bridge Over Troubled Water made the arena vacuum silent. It felt like time had stopped.