I generally hate going to see the songwriters of my youth perform. I avoided the Simon & Garfunkel tour of a few years ago because I saw them at their height and their voices are not what they once were and I didn’t want to be disappointed. I had the same sense of unease about the odd-on-paper pairing of Simon and Sting who performed last night at Madison Square Garden.
But wow! To begin, I am just amazed at how a 72-year-old man like Paul Simon can rock it out for three hours of live performing. He was on fire last night at the Garden. You expect that kind of thing from Sting who is a decade or more younger and is in great shape. Simon looks like a guy who’s about to retire from Zabar’s deli counter. But he still has it and, truth be told, he outperformed Sting even though they were more or less equal partners.
One kind of forgets how many great songs Paul Simon has written but last night brought it all back: “The Boy in the Bubble,” “Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,” “Me & Julio,” “You Can Call Me Al,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water” — along with Paul McCartney and John Lennon, Paul Simon is probably the preeminent songwriter of late 20th century popular music. The world would be much poorer if those three guys never lived.
Over a three-hour stretch, Paul Simon and Sting took turns performing together and then separately. Sting was as rousing as ever. His version of “Roxanne” & “Message in a Bottle” brought down the house. And he took Garfunkel’s part with “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and sang an acoustic version of “America,” Simon’s touching song about a cross-country journey.
The pair looked decidedly odd with the tall, buff Sting singing next to the short, not-so-buff Simon and even Paul made good-natured fun of their different physiques by saying he expected that by hanging around Sting during the tour, he would become “more Adonis-like” and be able to have sex for days as the yoga and Tantric-loving Sting is rumored to be capable of.
“And Sting, do you expect any changes?” Paul asked him.
“Changes? I don’t think so,” Sting said.
“Makes sense,” Paul answered.
These guys are friends and it showed. If you can get tickets to this tour, you should….one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended.