“With a few interruptions, this year would be the 50th anniversary of a friendship that I deeply cherish,” Art Garfunkel told an invigorated audience before he and Paul Simon launched into “Hey, Schoolgirl.” The song was one of the first the two recorded together at the raw age of 16 when they called themselves Tom and Jerry. They’ve come a long way and created an accomplished — albeit dramatic — history together that won’t be forgotten anytime soon.
At first glimpse, the new two-disc live album from last year’s “Old Friends” tour is a mouthwatering prospect for any Simon and Garfunkel fan. But those with hopes of hearing lesser-known songs — such as “Richard Corey,” “A Dangling Conversation” or “Somewhere They Can’t Find Me” — will be left hungry, seeing as the album is compiled of almost all well-known hits.
Listeners expecting to hear proud, youthful reproductions of their old music will also be disappointed. The music sounds sedated. The songs are watered-down and their prophetic intensity lost, just as a young man’s energy can be drained by the time he’s in his 60s. The full seven-man backup band unintentionally highlights their fatigue. It seems as if the music is aimed toward their older followers. It’s a disappointing result, but it is impressive that they were able to hit the road and play one more tour (and one that grossed about $36 million), so their efforts deserve respect.
Despite these omissions, decades of musicianship have not been lost. Though their individual voices sound rusted from age, their harmonies are incredibly intact and dance around each other in ways that most younger musicians can only dream of achieving. Simon’s guitar solo on “Homeward Bound” shimmers, the haunting echoes on “The Boxer” add an otherworldly vibe and the majestic loneliness of “El Condor Pasa” reminds audiences why Simon and Garfunkel have achieved their illustrious status.
Though nothing monumental, “Live On Stage” is a perfect bookend to a Simon and Garfunkel collection. It provides solid closure and resolution to their disagreeable past. Garfunkel tells the audience, “We started to sing together when we were 13 years old, and we started to argue when we were 14. So this makes this the 47th anniversary of our arguing. Now we don’t argue anymore. Now we say, ‘that’s your opinion, and I respect that.’ ” Audiences can certainly respect their 40-year history, but this album gets by on pure nostalgia rather than the creativity and youth Simon and Garfunkel are known for.
Rating: 2.5 / 5 stars