Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel rolled back the years Wednesday night on the opening date of their Australian tour, with a set carrying all the old favorites, and a few surprises.
As one would expect, there were no fireworks or bombast at the Brisbane Entertainment Centre to herald the arrival of Simon & Garfunkel, to this day one of the more unlikeliest-looking pairs of popular music superstars in the history of the game. The legendary N.Y. singer-songwriter duo were never about smoke and mirrors, and never particularly glamorous. They’re music’s enduring odd couple, endowed with the gift of song and harmony. And what a gift.
Back on stage in Australia for the first time in 25 years, Simon & Garfunkel gave the sold-out arena a lesson in songcraft. The years, it seems, have caressed their sound, in particular Garfunkel’s voice. From the opening moments of this “Old Friends In Concert” event, the
audience knew they were in for a night of nostalgia. A showreel played out on the big screens, depicting poignant moments in recent history. There were hippies and Nixon, the lunar landing, the fall of the Berlin wall and start of the new millennium. And all along were
Simon and Garfunkel, their images and sound spliced with the historical footage.
On this mid-winter’s night, there were no support acts to warm up the 10,000-strong audience. But the famous pair soon warmed the place up, first with an acoustic version of “Old Friends” followed by a fully plugged-in rendition of “Hazy Shade of Winter” with their backing band. The hits flowed — “I Am a Rock,” “Scarborough Fair” and “Slip Slidin’ Away” — and the pair took turns to charm the audience.
“We’re thrilled to be in Brisbane, opening the Australian leg of our tour,” Garfunkel told the audience. The city, he continued, had “great energy, and beautiful women.” He might sell the same line at every other show, but no one minded on this occasion.
The crowd learned that the duo met at age 11, in the six grade, during a school performance of “Alice In Wonderland” (Simon played the White Rabbit). Unfortunately, no photographic evidence was provided tonight.
Given the span of Simon & Garfunkel’s career, it should come as no surprise that the audience gathered many folks of a certain age. A fair few brought their offspring and grandchildren along to enjoy the songs of their youth. The “pleasure of the reunion,” noted Simon, was as much about the bond between the pair as it was observing “the generation who first heard us, with their children.”
Garfunkel and then Simon each played a mini-set of their solo works, with Garfunkel’s ethereal “Bright Eyes” both a surprise and a high point.
The bigger the hit, the bigger the applause. Clips lifted from 1967 film “The Graduate” served as a teaser for “Mrs Robinson,” a song the pair must have played a thousand times over the years — and for a few moments, it showed. But the duo were right on top of things with “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “Cecilia,” and “Sound of Silence,” all of them encores, and all of which were met with standing ovations.
Themes of opportunities and growing old braced the set through the lyrics of “Hazy Shade” and “Leaves that are Green,” the penultimate track. On it, the pair sing: “And the leaves that are green turn to brown, And they wither with the wind, And they crumble in your hand.”
Life won’t be imitating art on this tour. Based on tonight’s effort, Simon & Garfunkel are evergreen.