Jim Doty - Photo Blog

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Wednesday, October 22, 2003
Simon & Garfunkel

There is nothing like being there in person. The music, the coordinated light show, the ambiance, the big video screens, the energy of the crowd, the artists live on stage.

Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel performed tonight in Columbus, Ohio. Melissa and I dug deep in our pockets, scarfed up two tickets for a small fortune, and went. After all, how often do you get to hear these two in person? What a treat! As children of the 60's, Simon and Garfunkel's music is somehow written deep into a lot of our psyches. The music is infectious, fun (or should I say "groovy"?), thoughtful, meditative, poignant, and at times, profound. It was good to be there tonight. Part of it is nostalgia of course, but there is much more to it than that, something deeper. Something about some of their music gets into your soul and resonates. They are poets and troubadors. They spoke to a generation of youth, more than one generation in fact.

Paul and Art met 50 years ago in 1953 when they were both in their 6th grade class play, Alice in Wonderland. They were eleven when they met, began singing together at 13 and had their first recording at 16. They bought cheap tickets to London and sang ballads for donations in Leicester Square. They kept an eye out for the bobbies since you aren't supposed to sing for money on the streets (something that is still true decades later as a good friend of mine found out when she and another college friend played French horns on the streets of London just three years ago.) Art and Paul honed their craft. The rest, as they say, is history.

Decades later, Paul and Art's appeal is still obvious. I looked around at 16,000 plus other fans, many of whom also grew up in the 50s and 60s and 70s, plus a whole raft of much younger fans. Pre-concert energy was high and when the lights finally went out and the video screens showed old clips from 40 something years ago, the roar of the crowd began. When Art and Paul stepped into the spotlights at the end of the video clips, the place exploded.

They began with "Old Friends," the tour theme. Unfortunately, their opening notes were pretty shaky. Attacks were a bit ragged and vocal quality left something to be desired. Oh no, I thought, I hope that they haven't totally lost it. But hey! It is still Simon and Garfunklel, and for the first time I was hearing them in person.

With the next few songs, things improved. Vocal quality got much better. Attacks became cleaner. Their voices are older of course, they won't sound quite like they did back then, but they are still very good.

They did almost all of the old favorites. Some of them with a pleasant twist to the usual arrangements. The back up band was excellent, with some stunning solo performances by individual band members which you don't get on the albums. All around me, people were mouthing the words. Many of the people there knew most of the words to most of the songs. At some points, thousands would join in for some of the choruses.

The huge surprise of the evening was when Don and Phil, the Everly Brothers, came on stage and did a set of their own classic numbers while Art and Paul took a break. Folks just went wild. At the end, Paul and Art came back on stage to join them for one song together before Don and Phil left the stage.

There were lots and lots of good moments, a ton of old memories stirred up, and some very powerful musical moments. Scarborough Fair and Sounds of Silence were quiet and evocative, other songs were pulsating and driving. At the end of the concert (before the encores) the strong closing chords and vocals at the end of Bridge Over Troubled Waters were absolutely electric.

Paul and Art stood a little distance apart for most of the evening. At the end, however, something was a little different. Art reached over at one moment as Paul was turning to walk off stage, and touched him on the shoulder. In the second encore, they sat closer together, and at one point Paul put his arm around Art's shoulders. Here and there, a few folks lit their Bics. Shame that I don't carry a lighter for such moments. Something died when Paul and Art split up years ago. One can only hope some of the old hurts are healing. It was good to see them together again.

I left with several souvenirs. Memories of the evening, a "No Cameras Allowed" poster, one of the tour t-shirts they were hawking out in the parking lots, and some mostly blurry photos.

Tunes are still running through my head, and good memories of a wonderful evening. We had a great time tonight, and for a little while, Melissa and I were back in the 60s. It was a strange and troubled time, with hopes and fears and the cold war and Viet Nam, and turmoil in the streets and riots on campuses. But in some ways it was a very good time. People were very passionate about some of the right things, even if they couldn't find the best ways to express it. Paul and Art's music spoke through it all with a distinctive and evocative voice. Thanks Simon and Garfunkel. I'm glad you are back together, if only for a little while.


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