On a balmy spring night in Central Park, Art Garfunkel took to the stage after a brief introduction by Mayor Mike Bloomberg. He gave a brief speech where he mentioned that he never felt the songs he recorded with partner Paul Simonwere the "definitive" versions of those songs, but just the "original" ones, and that he was excited to hear what the musicians participating in the event were about to play. He also mentioned that he was "tickled and honored" for this tribute.
The first artists to take the stage were Dar Williams and Stephen Kellogg, who opened the proceedings with "We've Got A Groovy Thing Goin," a rather obscure tune originally released as a B-side. Their take was very similar to the original single, which had a surf-rock feel to it. They were followed by the Holmes Brothers, who attempted to create a Gospel version of "Mrs. Robinson." Unfortunately, they chose to perform it in a key that was too high, and their voices cracked throughout the tune.
Ollabelle, the house band for the evening, played a stirring bluegrass arrangement for "Scarborough Fair," with plenty of space for guitar improvisations alongside their impeccable harmonies. Also memorable was the duet of Loudon Wainwright IIIand Lucy Wainwright Roche on "Bleecker Street," a song whose lyrics talk of bygone Greenwich Village, and a time when "$30 pays the rent."
The concert was divided between lesser-known tunes and more obvious hits. While Aimee Mann and John Roderick performed the very folky "The Only Boy Living in New York," which she described as "the reflections of a very angry young man," other artists preferred to go with songs the audience would sing along to, such as "El Condor Pasa" and "The Boxer," the latter beautifully performed by Alejandro Escovedo and Willie Nillie.
Among the best moments of the show were Shawn Colvin and Paula Cole's take on the very demanding "America," arguably the most complex tune on the Simon & Garfunkel canon (Simon has since written harder material, but as far as the duo goes, this is definitely it), and the grand finale with the entire ensemble sharing "Bridge Over Troubled Waters."
Contrary to the rumor, Simon and Garfunkel (who were both present at the venue) chose not to perform that evening, which came as a minor disappointment to fans who were expecting yet another reunion. However, the entire evening was a testament of how those tunes have held after all those years, and it was a pleasure for all present to revisit them once again.
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