Growing up in the seventies, I was usually drawn more to the classic-rock and heavy-metal side of the tracks, than I was to the folk-rock movement of the times.
At a very early age I was introduced, by my older brother, to an amazing variety of music from The Beatles, Steely Dan, Stevie Wonder, Santana and many others. Although I was never really exposed to the music of Simon & Garfunkel, early on, I did develop a love for many of the folk-rock artists of the time, such as James Taylor and Crosby, Stills & Nash, so naturally I eventually came to appreciate their wonderful music as well. Paul Simon went on to become one of the most prolific song writers in history, matched by only a handful of others.
Although he maintained a large and dedicated following of his own, it was always his collaboration with Art Garfunkel that the fans were willing to fill stadiums (and giant parks) for.
Old Friends is a document of Simon & Garfunkel‘s 2003 reunion tour, which was their first concert tour in over two decades. The performances are seamlessly pieced together from five sold-out shows at New York’s Madison Square Garden, and New Jersey’s Continental Airlines Arena (better known as The Meadowlands) between December 2-8, 2003. The
concert begins with a video montage that featured clips of American cultural
icons, interspersed with video of Paul and Art from their childhood up until
present day. This was all backed by a beautiful instrumental version of “America.”
The first song of the show is a soft performance of "Old Friends",
which is accompanied only by Simon’s acoustic guitar. The pace changes dramatically with the next song, a rocking version of "A Hazy Shade Of Winter", which had my wife saying "hey, I know that song." At her tender young age of 29, I’m pretty sure it was The Bangles’ version she was referring to though.
This was followed by "I Am A Rock", and then continued with 23 more of their best-known songs, which, unless a person has actually been a rock for the last 40 years, they should be fairly familiar with.
Less than halfway into this concert, it hit me what a fantastic acoustic guitarist Paul Simon is. His virtuosity has simply been overshadowed by his brilliant songwriting. Joining them on stage are an outstanding group of musicians featuring Jim Keltner on drums, and Pino Palladino on bass (who has been touring with The Who, since the untimely death of John Entwistle).
About nine songs into the show, Paul introduces the Everly Brothers who come out and perform three of their hit songs. "Wake Up Little Suzie" and "All I Have To Do Is Dream" featured just the two of them, unaccompanied, which I though was kind of a weird thing to do right in the middle of the concert.
For "Bye Bye Love", Paul, Art and the rest of the band came out to join them. Paul and Art’s voices still sound wonderful and their harmonies are like no others. Many of the classic songs are given slightly updated arrangements, but never to the detriment of the original. "Mrs. Robinson", which began the second set, and was preceded by some timeless clips from The Graduate, received an especially lively arrangement.
The production quality of this DVD is appropriately superb for a concert recording of this significance. The widescreen video presentation was vibrant, and the camera production outstanding. The Dolby 5.1 surround mix was dynamic and produced some excellent instrument separation and clarity. It sounded like Simon was sitting playing unplugged in my living room. The rear surround speakers were used extensively to enhance the live sound, and the crowd received a loud, but not overly offensive, mix.
The disc’s extra features merited the price of the DVD alone. Included, were rare clips from the 1970 television special Songs Of America, which shows some wonderful behind-the-scenes dialog between Paul and Art, as well as seven live song performances. Also included is a photo gallery of pictures from this tour, and an audio version of “Citizen Of The Planet”, their first new studio recording since 1975.
You don’t have to be a lifelong fan of Simon & Garfunkel to appreciate this wonderful DVD. This may be the last time these old friends ever tour again, so I, for one, am grateful that this special tour was captured so brilliantly on DVD.
A Hazy Shade Of Winter
I Am A Rock
At The Zoo
Wake Up Little Suzie (The Everly Brothers)
All I Have To Do Is Dream (The Everly Brothers)
Bye Bye Love (featuring The Everly Brothers)
The Sound Of Silence
Slip Slidin’ Away
El Condor Pasa
Keep The Customer Satisfied
The Only Living Boy In New York
My Little Town
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Leaves That Are Green
The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy)
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