Novak (novak) wrote,

Musical/Personal: Simon and Garfunkel at the United Center in Chicago

A retroactive entry from May 2009, when I wanted to make sure I had as complete an account as I could make of the concerts I'd been to, and after digging up the setlist from the pocket of the jacket I had worn this night....

A great warm Saturday October night out with Kevin Fleming, Steve and Erin Camilleri. We met in Chicago, Kevin driving up from Zionsville and Steve and Erin in from South Bend (they ended up in a different hotel than us, up on the Gold Coast, while Kev crashed in the room I got at the Palmer House). So we gathered at 4:30 for drinks at the bar in the John Hancock Building's "Signature Room," just finding one another as we drifted in with sunset crowd. Casual catch-up talk took us through that, until Steve lead us out to a 5:45 dinner at a place he liked called Boston Blackie's that I'd never heard of, but which I really loved for the classic Chicago feel of the building, with the lovely old tin ceiling of the room. We still had some time before the 8pm concert at the United Center, and we ended up at an equally classic-looking ice cream place for dessert up by the Water Tower. Then a careening taxi ride later found us at the opening of the Simon and Garfunkel show, with me drowning in kudos from the gang for grabbing these tickets and thinking up this reunion.

After the show, Steve and Erin called it a night, but after a pit stop at the hotel, Kevin and I checked out the club scene which was kind of crowded and lonely at the same time, the highlight of which was the two of us being hit on by one ambitious drunken woman in her forties. We talked for a bit at a table in the crowded blue light of another place that was throbbing with music, but I was just finding the scene all too grim. Our taxi back to the hotel ended up stopped for a long moment next to a limousine where a few young teens were standing up through the retracted roof and whooping it up in the way one expects with limousine folk. There was a blonde girl who was stunningly gorgeous, in the model/movie star kind of way, moreso than the "obvious" blonde beauty – something almost poignant about it – and Kevin had to tell her how beautiful she was, almost in a state of shock, which was kind of an interesting moment, as she seemed kind of wearied of that sort of recognition, while at the same time giving me a sense that she didn't have much else to do with herself. We ended up not following them to wherever they were whooping their way too, and we found ourselves wondering what that story was. And so we called it a night.

Simon and Garfunkel – Old Friends Tour – United Center, Chicago, Saturday 25 October 2003
Old Friends
A Hazy Shade of Winter
I Am A Rock
At the Zoo
Baby Driver
Kathy's Song
Hey Schoolgirl
Everly Brothers surprise appearance and mini-set:
Wake Up Little Suzie
All I Have To Is Dream
Let It Be Me
Bye Bye Love (with Simon and Garfunkel)
Scarborough Fair
Homeward Bound
The Sound of Silence
Mrs. Robinson
Slip Slidin' Away
El Condor Pass
Keep The Customer Satisfied
The Only Living Boy In New York
American Tune
My Little Town
Bridge Over Troubled Water

The Boxer

Second Encore:
Leaves That Are Green
59th Street Bridge Song


USA / Illinois - Chicago - Gus

What a show! Three moments will stay with me forever, all related to lyrics and ´pindrop listening moments´ at the cavernous United Center:

1) ´And the moon rose over an open field...´

2) ´We come in the age´s most uncertain hour
and sing an American Tune...´

3) ´Hello, hello, hello hello
Goodbye, goodbye, goodbye, goodbye.
That´s all there is.´

You could hear your own heartbeat after No. 3...

- Gus

Classic songs wear well at United Center
October 26, 2003
BY JEFF WISSER Staff Reporter The Chicago Sun-Times

They came for a museum exhibit. A church service. A family reunion.

They came to look for America, the America of their youth. The America of yesterday.

And in the midst of all this, a 50-something crowd so reverent they made the folks down at Symphony Center look like soccer hooligans witnessed an honest-to-goodness pop-rock concert breakout.
They didn´t know quite what to do about this development Friday, at the first of two sold-out Simon and Garfunkel shows at the United Center, so they sat quietly for most of the night, applauding politely at the end of each song.

You couldn´t blame the crowd for their reverence.

They paid a lot for their tickets to the Chicago stop on the Old Friends tour (as much as $300). The film montage that led into the performance was daunting. There were even some awkward moments, such as some of Art Garfunkel´s stage patter, which sounded stiff, straight out of a testimonial dinner. The re-teaming of the sometimes contentious pair has been a long time in the making. They last toured in 1982-83.

And let´s face it, nobody at the UC Friday was getting any younger.

Least of all Art Garfunkel and Paul Simon, who looked alarmingly like Sen. Joe Lieberman in a Krusty the Clown wig and Danny DeVito´s skinny brother, respectively, going through the paces of their own personal remake of Neil Simon´s ´The Sunshine Boys.´

But while time may have taken some of the essential prettiness from the countenances of the singers, it has done nothing to deface the prettiness of their songs.

Songs like the charming ´America,´ the delicate ´Scarborough Fair/Canticle,´ the affecting ´Homeward Bound´ or the still-powerful ´Sound of Silence.´ All were on the playlist and all were rendered rather faithfully by Simon, Garfunkel and the seven-piece band that backed them.

Then there were the moments when the band kicked into gear, as on the roadhouse rave-up of ´Keep the Customer Satisfied,´ the Byrds-evoking ´Hazy Shade of Winter,´ a cameo by the Everly Brothers, or, in one of the few moments that brought the crowd to its feet, that rollicking tribute to the bitter, predatory alcoholic, ´Mrs. Robinson.´

Coo coo ca-choo, indeed.

A Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour could have been many things. It could have been a purely cynical cash-in, a grab-the-loot-and-skedaddle con by a couple of aging popsters with little else to do but trot out their own personal ravages of time for the paying customers. It´s not like it hasn´t happened. In the past three months. (Are you listening, Aerosmith, Kiss and Boston?)

But, ultimately, even with a dutiful crowd that would not have been out of place in the Ravinia pavilion, Friday´s show was about something else entirely.

It was about songs, songs that long ago embedded themselves in the collective cerebral cortex. It was about the sheer simple elegance, the sometime aching beauty of blending Garfunkel and Simon´s voices. And it was about two old classmates, old friends/bookends if you will, or, really, America´s own two-man version of the Beatles, who came to town to serenade the faithful with a handful of hits that, with the possible exception of ´59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin´ Groovy),´ have held up exceptionally well.

It was a chance for Garfunkel to wrap his voice around the songs he should be singing. It was a chance for Simon to show off what he´s learned playing with more exotic ensembles in recent years. (Note to Garfunkel: When Simon starts jamming with the band, after all these years, you should find something to do with your hands other than wave to the crowd, play rhythm on your thigh or stick them in your pockets. Could you maybe pick up a guitar or a tambourine or a triangle?)

In the end, though, Friday night at the UC was about all these things and more. It was a chance for a crowd to revel in the work of people writing songs that voices too seldom share. To recall a simpler, sweeter time. To renew an old pact.

´A pocket full of mumbles, such are promises´?

Well, Friday, maybe it was just a little more than that.

There's a good set of notes on the arrangements in this review, which had the same setlist:
USA / Michigan - Auburn Hills - October 19, 2003 - Blackmanny

Sunday´s show was better than Saturday´s. The Saturday show had more slightly out-of -synch vocals and Mark Stewart was noticeably off on the backgrounds for ´Only Living Boy.´ Here are some random thoughts on the performance Sunday -

America (instrumental) - sounds like this was recorded with the road band. Maybe that´s what the rumored recording session in Pennsylvania produced.

Old Friends/Bookends-solo acoustic, nice blend

A Hazy Shade Of Winter-Paul on acoustic 12-string, Larry on electric 12-string (playing the riff), Mark on electric six string. Keltner really rocks on this one. The guitars have a neo-psychedelic sound that I really liked. Changes in melody and lyrics - repeating ´time, time, time´ at several points.

I Am A Rock- Basically, Paul´s You´re The One tour arrangement with Art on harmony. I think they played it in B-flat instead of ´C,´ for the recorded version. Paul on acoustic six string, Larry again on electric 12-string, Mark on electric six string.

America-really close to the original arrangement, right down to the introductory humming. I think they play it in E-flat which is the recorded key. Larry on electric six string, Mark on a big hollow body electric six string, Paul on acoustic six string. Mark takes the solo.

At The Zoo-Paul and Larry on acoustic six string, Mark on electric. Nice driving arrangement, Keltner really stands out. Art does a nice job on harmonies. Slides right into:

Baby Driver -Larry plays riff on acoustic, Mark on electric, Paul on acoustic. Mark on electric, at end recreates ´motorcycle´ sounds by sliding pick down bass string and de-tuning.

Kathy´s Song-Just Paul and Artie. Artie vocal solo. Nice, sympathetic accompaniment by Paul. Paul´s an incredibly talented acoustic guitarist and one of his gifts is being truly complementary to the vocal line, not trying to outshine the singer with fancy technique. Just great.

Hey Schoolgirl-again, just Paul and Artie, acoustic. First verse and chorus only, then introduction of Everly Brothers.

Everly Brothers (with the S & G band): Wake Up Little Susie, All I Have To Is Dream, Let It Be Me (still one of my all-time favorites, and they do a great job. What can you say about a song that´s been recorded by everyone from Dylan (twice, no less!) and Willie Nelson to Dave Edmunds, Jackson Browne, Sam & Dave, The 5th Dimension, etc.) S&G join The Everly Brothers for Bye Bye Love-Paul and the Everlys on acoustic guitars. Art salaams to Don Everly, Everlys depart to hugs all around.

Scarborough Fair-Harkening back to Art´s 1978 tour arrangement, this featured Mark on cello. Larry on acoustic, Rob Schwimmer on ´electric harpsichord´ synth effects. Nice version.

Homeward Bound-Larry on classical acoustic (and first solo), Mark on electric (and second solo), jamming out on the end a bit. Paul changes the original run in thirds that precedes the last chorus and instead plays an Am7 to Am7 at the second fret (I know that´s not the chord´s name but that´s what I call it) sort of reminiscent of the intro to Kathy´s Song.

Sounds Of Silence-Paul on acoustic, Larry and Mark on electric. Very similar to the ´You´re The One´ tour version. A video montage starting with S&G at Monterey Pop doing ´The 59th Street Bridge Song´ and showing a series of watershed events - some from the Songs For America special (contrail peace sign) - and footage from the graduate ending with a freeze frame of Anne Bancroft as Mrs. Robinson.

Mrs. Robinson-Nice organ solo by Rob Schwimmer, Mark on electric, Paul and Larry on acoustic.

Slip, Sliding Away-Paul on acoustic 12 string, Mark on electric, Larry on electric 12 string (I think). Nice version - on the fade, Paul does his falsetto and Artie alternates between falsetto and true voice. Nice effect.

El Condor Pasa-Paul on acoustic, Rob on accordion, Mark on mandolin and Larry on what looked like a charango (but I couldn´t see the armodillo shell). Very close to the original arrangement.

Keep The Customer Satisfied-I thought they´d do this one because I thought (wrongly) they had horns in the band. I was surprised that I didn´t miss the horns. This one rocked with Paul on acoustic 12-string and Larry and Mark on electric six strings. The keyboards were great on this and really filled out the sound and Paul and Art sang their asses off.

The Only Living Boy In New York-Paul on acoustic 12-string, really nice bass work Pino Palladino, reproducing those lovely bass lines from the album version. Art sings right next to Mark and the background vocals are noticeably improved over Saturday night. I think Larry is playing a ukelele (!!) on this one. Mark on electric guitar and backing vocals and I think Rob Schwimmer is also singing on the background.

American Tune-nice version with Mark on cello.

My Little Town-Mark on electric hollow body, Paul and Larry on acoustics. I haven´t mentioned Warren Bernhardt so far but this guy is an absolute monster on piano. I´ve heard him many times over the years and he is just an unbelievable stud. This one really rocks and Keltner looks like he´s having a blast.

Bridge Over Troubled Water-Art on verse one, Paul on verse two, S&G on verse three up until the ´sailing right behind,´ then it´s Artie and he really nails the crescendo. Paul plays electric guitar on third verse. Bernhardt does a nice job between verses two and three disguising the full-step downward modulation that enables Artie to hit the high note, but what the hey, most people won´t notice. Spontaneous standing ovation, including me. Paul steps to side, gestures to Artie and allows him to take the applause. Artie points back to Paul to, as I take it, acknowledge that Paul wrote these incredible songs.

First encore:
Cecilia, which had been in the main set the first night, is now the first encore. In his own shows, Artie always has some type of break before a song that requires real vocal strength. So his band will jam out on El Condor Pasa or he´ll have a five minute drum solo on Cecilia before he sings Skywriter or Bridge. I figured that was the case here but then they moved Cecilia to the encore. Jamey Haddad steps out here and Paul and Art sound like they really enjoy doing this one.

The Boxer-Rob Schwimmer does the instrumental solo on theramin (!!) giving it a nicely weird feel. Larry and Paul on acoustic and Mark on electric. I was wondering if they´d do the really cool Fred Carter, Jr. lick that kicks off the record but they didn´t, just Paul´s usual Travis picking. Paul sort of shadow-boxes Artie afterwards, very playful.

Encore Two:
Leaves That Are Green-Just Paul and Artie. Paul says ´we haven´t done this together since 1967.´ I think they did it at least once in 1970, but that´s okay. Paul´s fingerpicking is really, really cool and instantly recognizable - I involuntarily ´aah´ as soon as he starts. I´m stunned, it´s that good. They do it completely straight, no ´I was twenty one years when I wrote this song, I´m on social security now but I won´t be for long,´ or anything remotely comic. I´m relieved. Artie takes the third verse.

59th Street Bridge Song-Mark looks like he´s playing a homemade didgeridoo, Larry is playing something that looks like an eight-stringed ukelele (maybe whatever it was that I thought was a charango earlier). Mark kind of sounds like the oboe on the Harpers Bizarre version (which I hate). Paul leans in to sing with Artie into Artie´s mike which is a mistake because there really isn´t room. They laugh - no sign of tension over little errors. Goodnight, Detroit.

I loved hearing these guys again. I thought they really approached this the right way and did justice to those incredible Simon & Garfunkel albums.
Tags: friends-notre dame era, musical, personal, restaurants, setlists, travel

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