By Barry Gilbert
Of the Post-Dispatch


Art Garfunkel, left, and Paul Simon open with the song "Old Friends" during theirconcert at the Savvis Center Saturday in St. Louis.

June 27, 2004

About 30 years ago, Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel sang the line, "How terribly strange to be 70." For the singers and many of their fans, that point is a lot closer than it used to be.

Simon and Garfunkel, both 62, old and often-battling friends, performed for about 14,000 other friends at Savvis Center on Saturday night. The nostalgia appeal was undeniable, but so was the magnificent music in the two-hour show.

Unfortunately, fans looking for an onstage love fest had to make do with only the emotional tug of the music because there was little interaction between the two men, who first met in grade school in Queens in New York. Garfunkel and an uncharacteristically hatless Simon stood shoulder to shoulder but rarely looked at each other, and it wasn't until taking bows before the first of two encores that they touched, throwing their arms -- briefly -- around each other's shoulders.

The majority of the crowd was middle-aged but included many teenagers in groups and smaller kids with their parents.

An opening montage on video screens showed images from the performers' childhoods up to the present, making stops at civil rights rallies, anti-war marches, Woodstock and other cultural touchstones.

Accompanying the video was an instrumental version of "Old Friends," and when the lights came up on stage, the old friends were singing that signature song, and the crowd stood and roared.

Following "Old Friends," the duo ran through six more songs, including "I Am a Rock," "America" and "Kathy's Song" before turning the stage over to their musical heroes, the Everly Brothers, for a strong miniset of four songs. The Everlys also have feuded over the years, but you'd never have known it from their warm stage demeanor.

Simon and Garfunkel, who recorded the Everlys' "Bye Bye Love," joined the brothers for a loose and rocking version of that song, including Garfunkel on air guitar.

Clearly many people had waited many years to see Simon and Garfunkel, who have not appeared together on tour in 20 years.

Emily Bates, 16, of Chesterfield, became a fan through her parents, who were watching the "Concert from Central Park" on TV five years ago.

"My mom called me in and said, 'Look at these guys,'" Bates said. "And I really loved the simplicity -- that it was just two guys and great harmonies and it was pure and relaxing."

Diana McGinness saw Simon and Garfunkel when they played the old Kiel Auditorium in 1968 and remembers that "they were fabulous" then. McGinness, a 1968 Granite City High School graduate who now lives in Seattle, attended Saturday with daughter Julie Meyer, who bought tickets as a Mother's Day present.

On stage, Garfunkel noted that this tour marked the 50th anniversary of the pair's friendship. Simon, alluding to their years-long estrangement, joked that the tour also is the 48th anniversary of their first argument.

The six-time Grammy winners stuck to the Simon and Garfunkel catalog, with the exception of "Hey Schoolgirl," a Top 50, Everlys-modeled single they recorded as Tom & Jerry in the late '50s, and Simon's solo "Slip Slidin' Away," which he said should have been an S&G song.

A rocking "Mrs. Robinson" was preceded by a video montage from the film "The Graduate," and the main set closed, of course, with "Bridge Over Troubled Water." The duo shared the verses in an affecting performance.

Two encores included "Cecilia" and "The Boxer," and the evening ended with everybody "Feelin' Groovy," also known as "The 59th Street Bridge Song."

The impact of the pair's music is remarkable considering that their formal association lasted only seven years and five albums before they broke up in 1970. But the passing years have only amplified its depth and beauty.