Welcome to my asylum for ideas and thoughts on movies, politics, culture, and all things Bruce Springsteen.

Sunday, July 04, 2004

time it was, and what a time it was, it was...

Friday night was sheer magic. I drove down to my old hometown of Fresno to see Paul and Art with some old bandmates. You may know this duo as Simon and Garfunkel, but let's not split hairs. I caught the pair last November with my family in Oakland and thoroughly enjoyed myself. I decided to catch them again as this was the only Northern California stop on the summer run and probably the last time S&G would tour. Ticket prices were steep, but thank goodness for continuing education opportunities and stipends!
I wasn't expecting anything new or spectacular; I just wanted one last glimpse of a duo that had (at least through a single album) been a part of my listening life. My parents owned an lp of Bridge Over Troubled Water that barely made it onto Side 2, except to play the first cut, "The Boxer." However, I never did care for the last cut on Side 1, which was titled, "So Long, Frank Lloyd Wright." A). Who is this guy? B). What sort of grown-up music is this stuff? To me, it sounded like background music that would be played at a cocktail party or a restaurant lounge. (How times have changed; FLW is my favorite architect and as of late, I've been knocked out by bossa nova music - who would have thought that S&G would have pushed the envelope by throwing another form of American music on the album?).
At any rate, the band came out with a nostalgic video montage of a cultural history of the last forty years which encapsulated the emotional goal of combining Forrest Gump with "The Wonder Years". As the film on the screens ended, the darkened arena (a fabulous new SaveMart Center) was cut with a single spotlight shining on Paul and Art center stage. Paul was strumming the two introductory chords to "Old Friends/Bookends" and soon they started up...
What came out was two hours of incredible musicianship. Never had I heard the two men sing as a single voice, with little to no off notes or unblended harmonies. Art's fragile angelic voice couldn't have been stronger nor more emotive. Paul was on top of his game on the acoustic guitar as he finger-picked succinct rhythms. I choked back tears on the opening song as well as several songs later when the opening "hmmmmms" of "America" started. I felt like the Cameron Crowe character at the beginning of Almost Famous as he thumbed through his sister's record collection. The pinnacle of the evening was the gospel-tinged "Bride" where I never fail to get goosebumps when Art hits the last high notes of the song as the instruments peak with intensity. While I've always contemplated the music I want played at my funeral, I've never questioned that song to be in the top three. Any of you readers out there, remember, that when I send off, tell someone to play the first song of the record...
I will never be able to fully capture the concert experience nor my feelings through the two hour spectacle. I do know that when Chris, Ron, and I walked to the parking lot, I had experienced a truly wonderful show and wouldn't replace the magic that I had just witnessed for a long time.
In no particular order, here's the setlist:

The Sound of Silence, Leaves That Are Green, Kathy's Song, I Am A Rock, Scarborough Fair, Homeward Bound, The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy), America, Old Friends/Bookends, Mrs. Robinson, A Hazy Shade of Winter, At the Zoo, Bridge Over Troubled Water, El Condor Pasa (If I Could), Cecilia, Keep the Customer Satisfied, The Boxer, Baby Driver, The Only Living Boy In New York, My Little Town, American Tune, Slip Slidin' Away, Let It Be Me, Dream, Wake Up Little Susie, and Bye Bye Love (the last four songs were part of the Everly Brothers' short set, with S&G joining them on the last song).

On a patriotic note, We the People turn 228 today. While we're starting to show our age, I still think that the resilient American people are hanging in there. Thomas Jefferson (with a little editing help) created a truly radical document that presupposed a political philosophy banged out by two score thinkers in Philadelphia that have revolutionized the way billions of people either live or attempt to live their lives. John Ashcroft would have arrested TJ et al as enemy combatants and locked them up long ago had he known what they were up to- organized rebellion pushing for the freedom from tyranny, the belief in the freedom of political voice and expression, and the belief that all people (arguably) are created equal. How we as a country truly have failed to live up to those credos. Then again, name a generation of Americans that hasn't, I guess. Frederick Douglas was correct by stating in the 1840s that Independence Day was not for blacks as July 4th meant nothing to them; today, it is our assignment to make sure that all people are enfranchised, represented, and understand that they have the rights and responsibilities to participate and help make our country greater than it already is. Happy Birthday, U.S. of A.