SIMON & GARFUNKEL:  OLD FRIENDS TOUR 2003

Special guests:  The Everly Brothers !

~ STORIES ~

Below you'll find a couple of stories that sum up the evening pretty well !


Sounds of comfort
Old friends Simon & Garfunkel reunite in a concert that is inspired and inspiring
 
By Robert Hilburn, Times Staff Writer
 
You knew a lot about what to expect from Simon & Garfunkel's "Old Friends" reunion tour concert even before the principals stepped onstage Monday at Staples Center. 

The odds were that the voices, for the most part, would still be stirring and that the old songs would be stylishly played, because Paul Simon is too much the perfectionist to hit the road again with Art Garfunkel if everything didn't feel right. 
What wasn't certain, however, proved to be the evening's most endearing feature: the subtle warmth between these occasional combatants.
 
Simon, remember, stepped away from the partnership at the height of the duo's "Bridge Over Troubled Water" fame in the early '70s because he found it difficult to work with Garfunkel. Then he got so irritated during the making of a reunion album in the '80s that he erased Garfunkel's voice from the tracks and turned "Hearts and Bones" into a solo work. In returning to the road together for the first time in two decades, Simon & Garfunkel played the nostalgia card at the beginning of the two-hour
concert by showing photos from their high school days on an overhead video screen.
 
In the same spirit, they opened, predictably, with "Old Friends," which includes the lines: "Can you imagine us/ Years from today/ Sharing a park bench quietly?/ How terribly strange/ To be 70." Simon was in his mid-20s when he and Garfunkel included that song on their "Bookends" album, and the idea of being 70 was surely as distant as Paul McCartney's ruminations in "When I'm Sixty-Four." But he and Garfunkel are 62 now, and the song, like many others, took on a sense of added dimension and character.
 
If the opening was so nostalgic that one could picture the singers doing the concert in rocking chairs, they quickly shattered that possibility. On the second number, "A Hazy Shade of Winter," and for most of the rest of the evening, the pair employed a seven-piece band, led by drummer Jim Keltner and guitarist Mark Stewart, to inject the tunes with the vigorous rhythms of Simon's work on "Graceland" (and beyond). At times, the arrangements might have felt jolting to fans used to the tame
recorded versions, but the change was essential to keep the evening from being simply a stroll down memory lane. Time after time, the arrangements gave the music a renewed spirit and spark.
 
Simon isn't a gregarious performer by any means, and things seemed a bit distant early on as the musicians went through such familiar hits as "At the Zoo" and "I Am a Rock." The chill started to break, however, when Garfunkel told the audience he
figured this was the pair's 50th anniversary because they'd met in school in New York in 1953, each cast in a production of "Alice in Wonderland." Simon  playfully countered that he thought of it as the 47th anniversary of their first argument. They started singing together at age 13, he said, and had that first argument at 14. The lines felt rehearsed, but the performers delivered them with charm and went immediately into a version of "Hey Schoolgirl," a hit they had under the name Tom & Jerry while they were in high school. It's a flimsy tune, built heavily around some of the harmonies and rhythm patterns of such
early Everly Brothers hits as "Bye Bye Love."
 
In an inspired move, Simon & Garfunkel invited the Everlys on the tour, and brothers Don and Phil came onstage at that point to sing three of their hits, "Wake Up Little Susie," "Let It Be Me" and "All I Have to Do is Dream," before Simon & Garfunkel joined them on a spirited rendition of "Bye Bye Love."  Simon was visibly thrilled to be singing with his early heroes. Given his
normally reserved demeanor, it was a sweet glimpse of Simon the fan.
 
Many feel that Simon's best writing came after the break with Garfunkel, and some of the older songs are indeed burdened by a self-conscious poetry. But he pretty much avoided the awkward early songs in choosing the material, which ranged from the delicate "Kathy's Song" to the exotic "El Condor Pasa" and "Cecilia." He and Garfunkel reached into Simon's solo material only twice on "Slip Slidin' Away," a 1977 song that Simon on Monday said he always thought could have been an ideal Simon & Garfunkel tune, and "American Tune," a 1973 number that Garfunkel on Monday said he wished he had sung on record.
The latter is one of Simon's most inspired works, a reflection onWashington policies that may strike some listeners as being as timely and affectingtoday as it was during the Vietnam era.
 
Standing at the microphone at the end of the number, Garfunkel referred to his partner touchingly. "Isn't he a great writer?"
 
When Garfunkel later reached for the highest notes on "Bridge Over Troubled Water," Simon smiled in admiration and gently placed a hand on the singer's shoulder in salute.
 
Simon & Garfunkel's voices are huskier now, but Garfunkel still has moments when he conveys longing and wonder with his old angelic purity. Simon's voice showed no signs of the cold that forced the postponement of Friday's concert at Arrowhead Pond (that show has been rescheduled for Sunday). At times, Simon & Garfunkel stepped away from the band to recapture the intimacy of such early jewels as "Homeward Bound" and "The Sound of Silence." In the former, especially, you felt a shift between the youthful perspective of the original version and the more mature viewpoint of the singers now, both approaches linked by an understanding of the importance of  emotional comfort.

The evening's most moving moment may have come near the end, when the pair teamed on "The Boxer," an expression of resilience and commitment:
 
In the clearing stands a boxer 
And a fighter by his trade 
And he carries the reminders 
Of ev'ry glove that laid him down
And cut him 'till he cried out 
In his anger and his shame, 
"I am leaving, I am leaving," 
But the fighter still remains.

 
Simon wrote that song in the late '60s from the viewpoint of a young man feeling the weight of the world but also feeling invincible and vowing to survive. On Monday, Simon & Garfunkel presented it from a much different vantage
point, acknowledging greater vulnerability but ultimately vowing to move on.
 
It was a beautiful merger of partnership and art, one in which the old friends were also clearly old masters.
 
 * * *
Robert Hilburn, the Times pop music critic, can be reached at
 
robert.hilburn@latimes.com


ANDREW TETON'S TAKE ON THE S&G CONCERT
AT THE CA STAPLES CENTER IN LA, NOV. 17, 2003

(from an Everly fan's point of view, that is)

Simon & Garfunkel with special Guests, The Everly Brothers
Los Angeles CA Staples Center Monday November 17, 2003 
 

As the Simon & Garfunkel tour continues across America, most  reviews offered a consistent tone about an evening rich in beloved music performed by two artists who bring this music freshly to life. So as I settled in my seats at The Staples Center in Los Angeles Monday night (11-17-03) I felt pretty confident I knew what to expect. 

But I was wrong. I cannot tell you how much I was shocked by how fabulous and exciting Simon and Garfunkel and their tremendous band were.  I assume most Everly fans at this point have read many tour reviews,  so I won't reprise details such as the set list that have been oft repeated. I can start by saying I was relieved that the illnesses that caused two California cancellations last week were not stopping this show as we watched The Staples Center fill to the brim.

As pre-concert prep, I had been playing Simon & Garfunkel recordings recently, and I was appreciating how timeless and touching their songs were, but a whole new level of excitement, punch, and poetry came out as they enthralled huge coliseum audience for two hours. Even Art Garfunkel seemed to have a similar thought; after one of several standing ovations he said, "You know, when we were rehearsing for this tour, we really didn't expect it to go down so well." Indeed!

Kudos go to their concert crew for pulling off the challenge of cleanly filling a massive venue with sound as delicate as two sweet voices and a single guitar yet also amplifying an 8-piece band truly rocking out, yet keeping the sound crisp.

When I first heard The Everlys were also part of the "Old Friends" tour, I could scarcely believe it. It seemed too good to be true. And I committed myself to buying tickets whether Don & Phil were really going to be in every city or not. I can say without hesitation the Simon & Garfunkel's show itself was undeniably great and well worth attending in fact afterwards I felt I had taken part in a communal rite with my fellow aging flower children! : )

By now you may be wondering, what about the Everly Brothers? Why, as they said in the newspaper business, am I "burying the story lead?" Well here it is: The Everlys were great the surprise was wonderful and the effect was tremendous. As an Everly fanatic, I somehow thought more people would have known about their inclusion on this tour. But that was not the case, and only increased the dramatic impact of their appearance. After a  brief snippet of their early Everly soundalike "Hey, Schoolgirl" Paul spoke about their indebtedness to the Everly Brothers and then introduced them. As Phil and Don came onto the stage I looked around me and saw the look of shock and heard the excited response of the crowd that turned to yelps and screams as Don machine- gunned the acoustic guitar intro to "Wake Up, Little Susie." I was especially pleased to see the two other couples that came with us look at me with complete shock and say "Did you know this was going to happen?" They knew I was an Everly fanatic but they know me to be a blabbermouth they were just as amazed I  hadn't blurted out this information in all the weeks of anticipation!

The Everlys performed with a scaled back group of the stage band and wowed the audience with their three "solo" songs. When they launched into "All I Have To Do is Dream", the stage lighting switched to a blue mirror-ball effect that set the entire coliseum  swimming and swirling in soft blue spangles of light and the effect was amazing I think 12,000 baby boomers were suddenly back in junior high gyms all over America at one of their first dances! I have never seen the Everlys in such a huge setting, and to my hypercritical ear, I detected some small little patches, a couple of seconds here and there, in their performance that were just a tiny bit off. I think if they had more stage time they would have reached a more balanced sound and the stage miking would have been refined. But truly, this comment is like criticizing a brush stroke in a Vermeer painting. 

It was a novelty seeing Don with a rather different look (sort of split bangs like a saloon keeper in a western movie.) I thought their selection of two sensitive ballads was a good one because S&G did just fine on some of their own rocking numbers, but nobody, not even Simon and Garfunkel who were sounding great, can match that haunting, echoed sweetness of Everly harmony.

When S&G joined the Everlys for that happy-sad song, "Bye-Bye, Love" at that point - and I'm not the first to note this - the Simon & Garfunkel absolutely, unequivocally moved up a notch in their performances. How would you and your partner sing if you were exchanging verses with The Everly Brothers? It was as if Paul & Art suddenly found an extra gear in a manual transmission.  From that point on, all of their harmonies were more balanced, their performances more immediate, and the band also seemed catalyzed with them. Don had quickly thanked Paul and Art for bringing them along on the "Old Friends" tour and that was a nice touch. I think it is a great gift from Paul and Art to (re)introduce the magnificent sound of The Everly Brothers to tens of thousands of music lovers many of whom I am sure were not aware the Evs were still around and still capable of weaving magic from their voices.

 So thank you Paul and Art and as always, thank you Don & Phil.

(and thank you Andrew !)

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