Simon & Garfunkel in Auckland

Last updated 08:38 16/06/2009

Back from a busy weekend in Auckland. Simon & Garfunkel played. Twice. And I went to both shows. I only found out I'd be at both gigs at about 4pm on Friday. But, good stuff. I've always been interested in the idea of attending back-to-back shows by an artist but it's an extravagance that I can't afford. And, if I'm reviewing an artist performing more than one show it's only ever the one show that is needed for a review.

So for S&G I struck it lucky, wearing my professional hat for one gig and then along as a punter for the second concert.

We booked our flights as soon as we could - back when I wrote this, just after the gig was announced. Then there was the debacle of preferential ticketing; the gig sells out in 17 minutes. I'm sure we weren't alone in hoping a second show would be added. And, luckily it was; tickets for that show proved easier to obtain.

From there I was asked to file a review for the Dominion Post and tickets were made available for me for the Saturday night. Four rows from the front, it was pretty cool. I know it happens from time to time - but it was interesting to note the two seats next to me were empty. And there was a block of seats near the sound-desk that were empty. So much for selling it out in less than half an hour.

For Sunday night we were further back in the venue, upstairs; but we still had pretty good seats. Nothing like the fourth row, but no complaints. Worth the money we paid.

It's hard to pick a favourite night - I expected them to be identical but there were some differences. And it was interesting to see the two shows. Saturday was the very first night of the tour and there were some nerves, some jitters; these two old friend are seasoned pros, sure, but they were obviously working out their banter and they seemed uncomfortable in their encore embrace - unsure whether to hug or just punch each other below the shoulder.

And there was also a technical glitch on Saturday. But it was a happy accident in the end. Art Garfunkel started Bridge over Troubled Water and then Paul Simon took a verse. During his section the microphone popped - it was a huge bang - and Simon continued, at first unaware that he couldn't be heard. The audience picked up the tune and ran with it, carrying it along until the glitch was ironed out and Simon and Garfunkel could continue with the song. They both looked rapt. Paul Simon would later say it was a memory he'd keep forever - the crowd helping him out.

The other weird thing about Saturday night was the early inclusion of The Sounds of Silence. It went over very well, but it's such an obvious encore/set-closer for a gig like this - and Sunday night they saved it. So it was nice to see the sets being rejigged; not quite completely nailed down.

Old FriendsArt Garfunkel's voice is blown - it's so weak now. And it really shows when he does his solo set. Bright Eyes is either magic or bile (it would appear it's pretty polarising for fans, generally) but on the two nights in Auckland most fans seemed to love it. That's fair enough. But it was not cool hearing Artie follow it up with those dreaded words, "this one's a new one". It was one he'd written. It was not strong.

Seeing this for the first time (Saturday) I figured Paul Simon was allowing Art Garfunkel a bit of the limelight, given that most of the songs are from Simon's pen - including a few of his solo hits that the duo now play as part of their reunion shows (Slip Slidin' Away, My Little Town). But the real treat was hearing a short Paul Simon solo set in the middle of the gig, following Garfunkel's brief run.

As soon as Simon and the band kicked in to Me and Julio Down by the School Yard, the little man looked and sounded 20 years younger. He seemed happier (he never looks happy) and the band was thriving with the livelier arrangements. Graceland's The Boy in the Bubble and Diamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes competed (easily) with some of the big S&G songs.

And then - unbelievably - both nights some clown/s yelled out "play The Boxer"; thankfully that person/those people were on hand to yell that out or the band might have forgotten! I wanted to walk over, find the person and hand them a card: "you might want to call this number. Yes, it's Jim Henson. Give him a call, he may have a job for you because you, sir, are a Muppet".

The first night - "play The Boxer" was yelled out right near the end. During the encores. Did that person really think they deserved a pat on the back for granting every audience member's wish? And it made me wonder, on Sunday, when it was called out far earlier, was it the same twit who figured he had better be there to remind them once again? This time Paul Simon had an answer, "we almost never play that anymore", he added a half-chuckle, "but here's one from the same album" before kicking in to The Only Living Boy in New York.

Garfunkel's poked voice could never ruin the shows - it was often quite endearing, breathing his way through the saccharine Bright Eyes; working hard to get to the top of Bridge. And there's still a quality to his voice - and to the blend of their voices. There's also a puzzling intensity about Art Garfunkel: he's a very bright man and he has a darkness in his energy that's quite beguiling.

I thought it was worth seeing them both nights and in some ways I preferred Sunday's show: Bridge over Troubled Water was fixed, the duo was sharper and happier in their dialogue, the band added a couple more solos (always tasteful). But Saturday was great too - I was right up close watching these two work through their past in the present, it was fresh to me, seeing it for the first time. I really do think that on the Saturday they were nervous about how the show would be perceived. Of course they should never have worried. But I think they were, as a result, more visibly relaxed on the Sunday.

So, I'm keen on people's thoughts if they went to either or both of the shows. But I'm also keen on your thoughts on the concept and examples of when you have watched more than one show on the same tour by an artist. Have you followed someone around Australia? Been to more than one show in NZ or attended two in the same city back-to-back? Or elsewhere in the world? And if not is there someone you would like to watch more than once? Would you want to see the same show replicated flawlessly to appreciate the talent involved in being so seamless? Or would you want to see a band like The Rolling Stones with a catalogue so vast that no two shows can ever be identical? (I guess it's the same with Bob Dylan - he doesn't even have a setlist sometimes; his band watching him for cues.)

Postscript:

Oh - and if you do travel for gigs, be wary of using Jetstar. They implemented a policy on Sunday and then chose to tell a group of us at 5.32am on Monday that this was the case; they now cut off boarding completely for their 6am flight at 5.30am sharp. This includes stopping serving people who have been in a queue since before 5.30am. No alternative arrangements are made - the plane just flies off half-full but with everyone's money. People stranded, forced to take a day off work or arrive very late (at best) to both Christchurch and Wellington were not walking around with happy faces on. I was just waiting for someone to pop up and call out "play The Boxer" as I killed six hours in an airport. That would have had me reaching for Jim Henson's card only to discover I'd left it at Jetstar's service booth.

You get what you pay for, I guess. (But it would be nice to at least get it.)
 

13 comments
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Cafe Chick   #1   09:19 am Jun 16 2009

What a weekend for you, Simon! I remember you saying you were going to the concert as a fan, and not in an official role, so I was surprised to see your review in the Dompost yesterday. All explained now. :-)

I went to Saturday night's concert and had been looking forward to it for ages. Ditto on all of your comments re Garfunkel's voice (I wonder if it will survive the tour?). I thought he was a brave man to try out an original while standing on stage with one of the greatest songwriters of all time. I'd have been happy to just hear Bright Eyes and move on to more of Simon's stuff, which I LOVED! I couldn't believe the sound malfunction during Bridge and also thought it was a really bad look for Vector Arena when the house lights came on full during the impromptu encore 59th Street Bridge Song. Hang on a minute! I wonder what S&G will change for future concerts; I think there is probably a bit more tweaking to come.

I was waiting patiently for The Boxer all the way through but you'll be proud to know that I kept those thoughts inside my head instead of yelling them out like that annoying dude. I wanted to yell out "Keep the Customers Satisfied" myself. Besides, the grey brigade surrounding me probably thought I was annoying enough bopping away in my seat throughout the entire show while they said staidly and clapped politely. Overlooking the jitters and fine tuning, it was a fantastic concert and I'm thrilled to have made the trip to Auckland for it.

I also flew back to Wellington on Jetstar at 6am on Sunday. Yep, you certainly get what you pay for.

Graham   #2   09:36 am Jun 16 2009

As one of your most pedantic readers, 'My Little Town' technically isn't a solo song although it appeared on Simon's Still Crazy After All These Years; it also appeared on Garfunkel's solo album from the same year, and has both Simon and Garfunkel singing on it.

Abbey   #3   10:06 am Jun 16 2009

@Cafe Chick The house lights came up on Sunday for Feelin Groovy too! We thought it was a stuff up, but maybe it was actually planned...so S&G and the band could see everyone up dancing? Surely Vector wouldn't have stuffed up two nights in a row?

I loved Paul's comeback when the idiot yelled out "play the boxer" "we don't have much call for that one" he's still pretty sharp.

It was an amazing show, absolutely loved it. Particularly once they did their solo sets, everyone seemed so much more relaxed!

Interesting to see Artie wander off behind the drums before Bridge Over Troubled Water started, it looked like he needed to psyche himself up for that one.

Scott A   #4   11:55 am Jun 16 2009

"it was interesting to note the two seats next to me were empty. And there was a block of seats near the sound-desk that were empty. So much for selling it out in less than half an hour."

Isn't that often the case when big gigs sell out quickly? A lot of the tickets get snapped up by corporates and the like to use in promotions etc, and for one reason or another the people who get given / win the tickets end up not going.

I'm curious, why wouldn't they play 'The Boxer'? I'm one of those people who think of it as one of their most powerful and memorable songs, and I'm wondering why the don't play it more often?

Don 1   #5   11:58 am Jun 16 2009

@ Scott A: I imagine PS was simply being ironic.

jillyfran   #6   12:08 pm Jun 16 2009

An utterly fabulous concert for one who grew up with S & G and has now brought up a family with these songs in their memory bank. The lyrics are fantastic and timeless. Opening with 'Old Friends'was special and it just went from there. I loved the wry smile and pause from Paul Simon as he sang'I'm 22 now but I won't be for long!' I thought the acoustics were great. A night to always remember. Thank you.

Lauren   #7   12:53 pm Jun 16 2009

I got a last minute ticket to S&G on Sunday night, being 24 I wasn't a dedicated fan from way back but I knew the hits and I thought they were magnificent and almost mesmerising in their performances. They looked a bit frail but still sounded great. My parents flew up from Wellington for the Saturday show (which they also loved) and they went on Jetstar as well, no problems with the check-in cut off, however in both directions the departure was more than 1.5h late and on the way back they were stuck sitting inside the plane for an hour before it took off! Lets hope they are just teething errors Jetstar!

Peter   #8   01:34 pm Jun 16 2009

The reason why there was a block of empty seats beside/behind the sound desk the was because we all had obstructed views of the stage. When an official enquired as to whether we were happy, he was firmly told that at $270 for an obstructed view, no, we were not. at the very last moment they shifted us up onto the first set of tiered seating at the far end of the Arena which were reserved for Press photographers. Don't know what those seats would have been worth but it was a fine alternative for a brilliant concert!

Stu as "Stu"   #9   01:47 pm Jun 16 2009

Ha ha, love the postscript. I travelled QANTAS AKL-WGN and back every week for about 18 months. 150 flights. I had the ten minute check-in totally mastered. Then one day day I flew that other airline, the one that fills us with national price, I arrived 20min early and got the same response as you got from Jetstar. was a bummer considering I was only flying up to AKL for a ten minute meeting at the US Embassy (stupid visa). i made the meeting, got the visa, but it cost me.

Simon and Garfunkel... yawn. Maybe one day I'll get it.

Barin Das   #10   04:40 pm Jun 16 2009

Critics go to find fault but paid audience go to enjoy a show. I'm glad you went to enjoy on the second glitchless day as did we. It was pure magic and our journey from Wlgtn was not marred- we went Virgin!


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