Thursday, October 13, 2016
HAPPY BIRTHDAY, PAUL SIMON!
It's always easy to remember the anniversary of one of the best concerts I've ever seen, because it's on the same date as my cousin's birthday. Whenever Facebook reminds me that Erik is another year old I remember that my Dad and I saw Simon & Garfunkel at Parade Stadium in St. Paul on that date in 1983.
Initially Dad and I really wanted my Mom and Sister to go along, but we were horrified by the ticket prices. They wanted $20 a piece! OUTRAGE! Years later when my Sis and Dad saw them play the tickets were probably AT LEAST three times that, but how could we know that it would seem like a steal with the passage of time?
The concert was an outdoor show and it was festival seating, so we got there early enough to give us a running chance at a close stage position. Since we were so early, we were able to hear Simon & Garfunkel doing soundcheck. I'd never heard a "behind the scenes" situation like that before, so to hear them performing Cecelia then was such a thrill.
The doors opened around seven, and we darted in to claim our spot on the field. What we didn't know was that the show had to wait until after dark to start so that the video projection could be effective. That meant we had to wait around for a couple of hours before the band even hit the stage. Very frustrating, but it was worth the wait.
The screens lit up and the band kicked in. The first image on the screen was Simon & Garfunkel walking towards the stage arguing! They started off with Cecelia, and the stadium flipped out. Their vocals sounded great, and the band was tight. I'm pretty sure that it was the same band that backed them on their Central Park concert in '81.
The internet is letting me down as far as finding a set list for that night, but a quick review of their Giants Stadium concert a few nights later seems to jive with my memories of the show. In addition to the expected S&G songs, they did quite a few solo Paul songs as a duo, including some from his upcoming Hearts & Bones album. Garfunkel recorded vocals for the record, but Simon had them removed, so these concert performances were the only time that the duo sang on the songs together.
As great as the set list was, the stand out song didn't arrive until the last quarter of the show. It was at this point that Paul left the stage and Art was left to rightfully claim the spotlight for Bridge Over Troubled Water. Garfunkel's vocals were stunning, and the performance was electric. My Dad and I went to a lot of concerts together, but this one song was something that he would reflect on in awe for the rest of his life. He'd always talk about how the hairs on the back of his neck stood up when Art hit that high note at the end. It was an incredible moment and I'm so glad we got to share it together.
Today is Paul Simon's 75th birthday, and over the decades he's given the world some amazing music. You can argue all you want about what his greatest song is, but for me it's always going to be Bridge Over Troubled Water. It's a great song artistically, but for me its greatness is personal. I guarantee you that Dad would tell you the same thing if he could, and if he could see the clip below of Art Garfunkel performing the song in Central Park in 1981 you would definitely be hearing about about how the hairs on his neck stood up.