ST. PAUL, Minn., -- Simon & Garfunkel together again; a dream come true for so many of us who grew up on ´Homeward Bound,´ ´Mrs. Robinson,´ ´Sounds of Silence´ and ´The Boxer.´ But could the concert possibly live up to the teenaged memories of our first favorite duo?
Concerts often don´t. But I can honestly say that coming away from the ´Old Friends´ was like having spent two hours not just with an old friend, but with a best friend, with whom the spark was reignited after years of neglect. There is no question about it, Simon and Garfunkel were superb.
Opening the concert Sunday night at Xcel Energy Center was a short video tripping down memory lane with flashes of photos from the ´60s and ´70s , decades during which their art was spawned and nurtured. A few songs later, Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon talked about meeting as classmates in a New York City elementary school, and sang the first piece Paul wrote for them at age 16.
It mimicked the style of their musical heroes, The Everly Brothers. With that, the lights dimmed and on bounded, you guessed it, the Everly Brothers in person. They delighted the crowd with a few of their famous favorites including ´Wake Up Little Suzie,´ and ended with all four men belting out ´Bye Bye Love.´
After Simon & Garfunkel reclaimed the stage, the audience was respectful and quiet, which could have been mistaken for a lukewarm reception. However, watching thousands of faces during the ballads such as ´I Am a Rock,´ ´The Only Living Boy In New York´ and ´Kathy´s Song,´ it was clearly not a lack of appreciation, but rather an overflowing of nostalgia that created the quiet. Here was a generation reflecting on the world as they once knew it, memories incited by music of their youth.
But making beautiful music together does not mean that Simon & Garfunkel have resumed their once near-brotherly affection for one another. In fact, they barely looked at one another the entire concert, and interactions seemed strained and artificial. Art Garfunkel tried too hard to seem warm and chummy, Paul Simon did not try at all. The invisible wall was painfully evident as scenes from young Simon & Garfunkel were flashed on the screens above, days when the two were best friends and feelin´ groovy.
Except for a few spontaneous jokes and smiles, Simon reserved his intensity for his guitar, which was nimble and melodic as ever. Garfunkel was full of emotion as he crooned his famous solos from ´Bridge Over Troubled Water´ and ´Scarborough Fair.´ But as always, the highlight was when the duo sang together, in harmonies so delicate, so exquisite, so familiar.
The crowd finally did rise to the occasion, and their feet, several times, including at the end, to bring the artists back for two encores. The second encore featured Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel alone, with no back up, singing ´and the leaves that were green turn to brown.´ You could hear a pin drop in the audience. It literally brought thousands over the edge to tears. Such is the power of their voices, their song.
In today´s era when so many musicians rely on studio tricks and post- production to manufacture ´their´ sound, this concert, these two men, are a testament to true talent. Perhaps the highest praise I can give is to say that live, in concert, Simon & Garfunkel sounded today, just like the records they recorded in their teens and 20s . And, like their sound, the songs and the lyrics still resonate with beauty and meaning. These two men and their music are, indeed, timeless.