September , 1983
By David Huff
Simon & Garfunkel
Simon and Garfunkel doing the Texas Two-Step
It's been more than 13 years, and in pop music terms, nearly a generation ago, since Simon and Garfunkel last took their act on the road. In that time, both Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel have remained in the national limelight with both their individual musical projects and separate forays into film. They've even had more than their share of tentative reunions, including duo appearances on TV's Saturday Night Live and more recently, 1981's "Concert in the Park”. That free outdoor reunion in New York’s Central park drew half a million people to the area, and by all accounts - including a best-selling album and cable TV special - was nothing short of a magical event.
"The reason we got back together," Garfunkel said of the event, "was simply for the love of music. It was the right opportunity at the right time without any real reason NOT to do it."
“When you throw a free concert,” he observed, “you do expect that people will show up. The thing we didn’t expect was a half a million people to accept the invitation and come together all at the same time! That was terrific!"
While the "Concert in the Park", which the spectacle was billed as, was a purposeful exercise in nostalgia, the current "A Summer Evening with Simon and Garfunkel" tour is intended to go a step further. For one thing, Simon and Garfunkel have just completed their first duo album in 13 years. Tentatively titled Think Too Much, it contains ten new Paul Simon compositions and contributions from such musical notables as Philip Glass, Niles Rogers and Al DiMeola. It should be on the streets sometime in September.
"I'm not sure that we will perform all the new cuts in the same performance," Simon warned. "We'll probably try them at different times."
Supporting the legendary acoustic guitar and vocal sound of the duo from the '60s will be an 11-member band including long-time keyboardist Richard Tee, jazz percussionist Airto Moriera and a three-piece horn section led by Gerry Niewood.
"The luxury of playing with a big band," Simon explained, "is that you can expand it to its full capacity and contract it to a single acoustic guitar. I think that gives us a pretty big musical range and makes the show fun. You can pretty much solve all of your musical problems when you have that size group with you."
The full-sized band will also help fill out the sound in the stadiums like the Cotton Bowl and the Astrodome. The pair booked both facilities on this tour. Simon and Garfunkel, legendary perfectionists when it comes to quality, are confident the sound at all the shows will be exemplary.
Besides what has been characterized as "the most sophisticated sound system ever created," the show will be staged on an elaborate set designed by Tony Award winning designer Eugene Lee to create the illusion of a massive, somewhat abstract drive-in movie theater that will neatly employ the theater screen to provide a mammoth video simulcast of the performance, plus pre-taped vignettes and other surprises.
"'To me, that provides the opportunity for people who are in the back to see and hear you intimately," Garfunkel said. "They have the chance to really see and hear you."
As for establishing and maintaining intimacy with crowds of 40,000 people, Garfunkel candidly discussed the potential problems and his confident solution to them.
"I find there is sometimes a little difficulty in the first few tunes," he said. "But if you can take control of the house and establish a confident authority and connection to the material, audiences are real happy to put their trust in you for the remainder of the show.
"There is that delicate period in the beginning of the show where you really have to win them over. And it's a little chancy around there. But if your performance is paced well, then you can do more 'sock' at the top of the show and then hope to bring them down a bit and draw them into the thoughtful songs later on. When it works, it makes a large house seem pretty cozy."
Naturally enough, both performers are a little anxious about performing together again for an American audience after such a brig absence. But, not surprisingly considering the years they've spent apart pursuing separate, solo projects, they have different feelings about what it's going to be like onstage.
"On-stage,” reflected Simon, “I find different emotions go through your mind from song to song and from verse to verse because the lyrics are rich with many associations. If you sing 'Old Friends' and you're singing it with your old friend, it can be a little spooky sometimes. The fact that a lot of the people know these songs from years ago, and some people fell in love to them, also has something to do with it. I always think of the kid who fell asleep with his earphones on with the needle going over and over again. I feel we've played a surprisingly deep part in the soundtrack of people’s lives, or some of them at least, and we're going to now touch that again.
"That's the set of feelings that flows through you once you start to perform. It's that simple, yet I’d be remiss not to add that especially before the early concerts, there's some nervousness on both our parts. But that’s it, essentially. You do your work and hope that people like what you have to say. Part of the great pleasure of the Simon and Garfunkel revival was that people seemed to take so much pleasure from our work. Musically, I know for me that I was growing bored with some of it. Then again, I've lived, breathed and played the material a lot more than our audience has.
"People seem to have great affection for our work and I find it very rewarding that people feel that way. If I didn't feel very positive about this reunion, I wouldn't be here. I wouldn't be doing this. I think it's going be very nice and we’re all going have a good time. Hopefully people will feel that this show is rewarding musically and emotionally for whatever nostalgic reasons that may apply."
And how long can we expect this Simon and Garfunkel reunion to last?
"Hopefully, the length of the tour," Simon laughed.