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ARKIB : 20/10/2003

Tens of thousands turn out for Simon and Garfunkel reunion tour kickoff

MUSICIANS Art Garfunkel (L) and Paul Simon (R) perform together during their "Old Friends Tour', Oct 18, at the Palace in Auburn Hills, Michigan. - Reuterspix.

AUBURN HILLS (Michigan) Oct 19 - Legendary US folk duo Simon and Garfunkel kicked off their 36-city ``Old Friends'' concert tour here Saturday before a multi-generational crowd of some 30,000 fans.

As the sun set on the Palace of Auburn Hills arena, 40 miles (65 kilometres) outside Detroit, Michigan, parents and their teenaged children picnicked from their SUVs. A four-week-old baby slept on her mother's shoulder.

And in the cheap seats, a 20-something woman beckoned three generations of relatives to their designated seats. ``Mom! Over here! Grandma! Dad!''

Inspired by the harmonising of the Everly Brothers and the socially relevant lyrics of Bob Dylan and Pete Seeger, Simon and Garfunkel's six-year collaboration from 1964 to 1970 produced songs that helped define a generation.

Personal differences led to an acrimonious split in 1970, after which the two pursued solo careers, reuniting only rarely - notably for a concert in New York's Central Park in 1981.

The duo's reunion at the Grammy awards ceremony in February - when they received a lifetime achievement award - revived a relationship that produced some of the most enduring tunes of the 1960s.

Long-time fans and first-timers turned out Saturday for the chance to hear some of those songs sung live, in keeping with the duo's promise to stay true to their roots and present all the old standard acoustic sets.

Andy Kelleher, 42, had traveled six hours from central Illinois to attend Saturday's show. ``It's not exactly Woodstock, but it is the soundtrack to your life,'' enthused the electrician.

``It's just like the Beatles,'' said Dominic Astorino, 51, ``Young kids don't necessarily know who they are or why they're culturally important, but they love their music.'' His 23-year-old nephew Nick nodded in assent.

The show began with a montage of footage of the duo and events in the United States over the last 50 years - since the boyhood friends met in 1953.

The two strolled out at the film's end, Paul Simon with a guitar slung over his shoulder, dressed in a blazer and T-shirt, Art Garfunkel in head-to-toe classic black, his shock of curly hair as shocking as ever, and his tenor voice in top form.

``We're thrilled to be together,'' enthused Garfunkel, ``and we're thrilled to be here. This is a long time coming.''

They wasted no time in launching into some of their best-loved standards such as ``I am a Rock'' and ``America.''

Garfunkel gave a poignant introduction to one of the pair's earliest tunes, ``Kathy's Song.''

``I'd like to take you back to the early 60s - if any of you were born then,'' grinned the 63-year-old.

``We were both poor college students and we'd fly over to Europe on cheap flights - if anyone remembers Air Luxembourg - and work as street musicians in Leicester Square in London and Saint Michel in Paris,'' he said.

``And our friend Kathy would collect money and keep an eye out for the cops,'' he said.

The Everly Brothers made a mid-set guest appearance, then Simon and Garfunklel wrapped up the show with a hit parade of their most famous tunes such as ``Scarborough Fair,'' ``Mrs Robinson,'' ``Sounds of Silence,'' and ``Homeward Bound.''

Outside the concert, 51-year-old Tom Noone admitted to growing misty-eyed during the show. ``Yeah, I cried during America,''' he said grudgingly.

``Besides the concert in Central Park before I was born, this is the only chance I get to see them,'' said 23-year-old Caitlin Woods. ``It's poetry. That's why it's timeless. That, and we really like the mellow folk energy.'' - AFP

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