The night was finally upon us. Simon & Garfunkel, two living legends with a back catalogue that includes ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, ‘America’ & `The Boxer’, not to mention many other sixties classics, were about to perform in front of an audience of 40,000 people. This was a night I knew I’d remember for the rest of my life. However, after standing for two and a half hours in a crowded pit listening to the alternative reggae that was being played over the PA system, my eagerness was beginning to wane.
Eight O’clock came and went like the 150 Dublin bus and still, a half an hour later there was no sign of the stars. I was starting to think that Garfunkel had upset Simon by refusing to tie up his hair and in a moment of anger, stormed out and left us all to fry in the evening sunshine. But then, as if out of nowhere, the familiar sound of beautiful humming that opens ‘America’ filled the stadium. Against a backdrop of sixties S&G footage on the big screens on either side of the stage, the atmosphere was at once tense with excitement and poignant at the same time.
And with the conclusion of this, a healthy & upbeat Paul Simon & Art Garfunkel appeared from behind a myriad of instruments & amplifiers to take centre stage. As the sun burned in the crisp, clear Saturday night sky, the duo duly opened their set with the melancholy ‘Old Friends’. The beautiful vocal blend of their voices intertwined around each other like an assembly of graceful ballet dancers. On record, their harmonising vocals epitomised the late 1960’s, and here, in the open air of Ireland 40 years after their original recordings together, it was no different.
After rocking through superb versions of two of their folk rock greats, ‘A Hazy Shade Of Winter’ and ‘I Am A Rock’, Garfunkel took to the microphone to address the audience for the first time of the evening. Aptly, he described the next song as a tune written about a country that no longer exists and with that, they performed what many have described as one of the greatest songs ever written: ‘America’. Note for note perfect, the well -honed backing band laid a rock solid foundation for S&G’s finely crafted vocals.
One by one, they knocked out further classics with the ease that only comes with experience, even launching unexpectedly into their earliest hit recorded way back in 1957, ‘Hey School Girl’ (under the pseudonym of Tom & Jerry). Simon followed this by announcing the performance of the Everly Brothers and after an enjoyable, short set of their classics including ‘Wake Up Little Susie’ & ‘All I Have To Do Is Dream’, the duo were joined on stage by Simon & Garfunkel for a tasty rendition of the Everly’s first hit ‘Bye, Bye Love’.
With The Everly Brothers departure, Simon & Garfunkel recaptured the night with a haunting reading of ‘Scarborough Fair’ that included languid cello & harmony lines. ‘Homeward Bound’ & ‘The Sound Of Silence’ kept up the momentum while also leaving the audience shell-shocked by the amount of amazing records that this relatively short lived partnership had. The volume of the performance was perfect and every detail, from Simon’s extremely underrated guitar playing to Garfunkel’s tiny harmonics twists, was audible in all their minute, beautiful detail. Yet, while their performance was extremely tight, there did appear to be some agitation between the pair and this was never more apparent than when Simon somewhat smartly described ‘Slip Slidin’ Away’ as a song that should have been recorded by Simon & Garfunkel (It was released as a Simon solo track).
Apart from this though, the hits kept coming thick & fast with ‘El Condor Pasa’, ‘Keep the Customer Satisfied’ and ‘The Only Living Boy in New York’ to name but a few. Yet the undoubted highlight of the night was the piano led ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water’, Garfunkel’s impassioned vocal doing every bit of justice to this gigantic song. To rapturous applause, the duo left the stage as all conquering heroes, only reappearing minutes later to calm the crowd’s cries for more.
‘Cecilia’ had the capacity crowd rocking more than at any time during the evening while excellent versions of ‘The Boxer’ & ‘Leaves That Are Green’ cemented S&G’s successful trip to Ireland. And finally, in a set that seemed all too brief, we were left with the brilliantly happy ‘Feelin’ Groovy’. Even more so now than when it was written, its opening line ‘slow down, you’re moving too fast’ never sounded more appropriate to a world moving at whirl wind speed.
Simon & Garfunkel’s songs were from a time when life seemed simpler, and when the world became a darker place in the late sixties, their songs acted as a soundtrack of hope. After witnessing this piece of musical history before my very eyes, I can fully understand how Simon & Garfunkel are so universally appreciated.
Simon & Garfunkel
Hazy Shade of Winter
I Am A Rock
At the Zoo/Baby Driver
Hey School Girl
Wake up Little Susie
All I Have To Do Is Dream
Let It Be Me
Bye, Bye Love
Simon & Garfunkel
The Sound Of Silence
Slip Slidin’ Away
El Condor Pasa
Keep The Customer Satisfied
Only Living Boy in New York
My Little Town
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Leaves That Are Green
(The 59th Bridge Street Song) Feelin’ Groovy