Simon & Garfunkel: New Orleans Jazz & Heritage Festival 4/24/10

Legends sometimes come in small packages; as in they don’t have to be big rock n roll bands to leave their mark. They can be more quiet: two voices reaching out to a sea of muddy people, who didn’t mind that one voice was weak, and in fact helped out by singing loudly to form a remarkable crescendo.

Jazz Fest in New Orleans draws thousands upon thousands of music worshipers every year. The food, the music and the atmosphere are an aphrodisiac of mythological proportions. And on this first Saturday of the two weekend event, the crowd standing in ankle deep mud and loving every minute of it, were treated to a rare performance by the legendary Simon & Garfunkel.

Art Garfunkel, sporting the same wiry hair that graced their early lps, was in poor voice but gave everything he had to deliver his harmonies at his first ever Jazz Fest (Paul Simon is a veteran). You heard his every strain, every break of voice, while he attempted to reach notes that have become as familiar as a cool rain.

Being introduced byJazz Fest head honcho Quint Davis and a pumped up brass ensemble leading them out, Simon & Garfunkel began with a peppy version of “Hazy Shade Of Winter”, followed by classics “I Am A Rock”, “America”, “Great To Be Back Home”, “Keep The Customer Satisfied”, “Slip Slidin Away” and “El Condor Paso”.

“Mrs Robinson” was energetically done with a mid-section of Buddy Holly’s “Not Fade Away” that livened up the song and got the crowd to singing quite loudly when Art could not. A beautifully lilting “Scarborough Fair” and “Homeward Bound” softly brought part one of the set to a close, as Art left the stage for Paul to bang out the boogie in his own unique style.

Kicking it up a notch, Paul did four songs that had us all dancing as best we could, considering we were jammed so tightly together up front at times you almost couldn’t breathe: “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes”, “Boy In The Bubble” – where he actually fumbled the words and admitted to forgetting them – “That Was Your Mother” and “The Only Living Boy In New York”.

We were all pleased when Art came back on stage to close out the set with “My Little Town” and such a moving version of “Bridge Over Troubled Waters” that it almost brought tears to your eyes as he strained for the notes while the crowd helped him by singing as loudly as earthly imaginable. Looking visibly humbled by their legion of fans, it made this song all the more moving and special.

Called out for Encore #1, they sang “Sounds Of Silence” and a wonderfully soulful version of “The Boxer”, my highlight of the experience. Encore #2 of “Cecilia” had them actually rocking with a few of New Orleans favorite sons, trumpeter Terence Blanchard, clarinetist Michael White and zydeco extraordinaire Rockin Dopsie Jr, which brought a lively end to this historic event.

Although it had been originally announced that this would be the only performance date for Simon & Garfunkel in 2010, a few other dates have been scheduled. As rare an event that this is, if they come anywhere near you, GO. The Jazz Fest crowd that was scrunched up in my little second row area were of all ages; the youngsters telling me that they had grown up with their parents playing this music so much they knew all the words to all the songs. It was almost as if it was the soundtrack of their youth.

It’s nice to know that these quiet legends have made such a loud impression on the new generation of music fans. It just goes to prove that good music always stands the test of time.

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