I’ve known about this show for some years. Its creator, producer and, original Paul Simon, Dean Elliott was keen for me to see the show in its very early days in England but I made excuses and never got round to it. I have to confess there was a little resistance on my part, the reason being that I had known Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel personally, Paul especially, in London in the sixties. I was/am a big fan of them, both individually and together, and was at their final London concert at the Albert Hall in April 1970 when, after a pitch invasion and being mobbed on stage, Paul said, prophetically, that they would never play London again. Even without knowing them they were special and I didn’t fancy seeing their memory besmirched by what could easily have been a second rate tribute act – although, to be fair I had seen Dean in the title role of Buddy and he had been excellent in that.
So, when I saw The Simon and Garfunkel Story was touring Holland I decided it was time I should finally take a look so I got in touch with Dean to fix it up – I still didn’t tell him that I had known Paul Simon – and I approached the show with what I hoped was an open mind.
Well, firstly let me say that it was a fabulous show, beautifully performed and presented. Needless to say, the songs were excellent but so were the performances. One of my original reservations was the casting of Art Garfunkel. He has the voice of an angel which sometimes defies its human source. Unique and beyond compare. Not quite, I was surprised to discover. Charles Blyth, who sings Art in this show, comes incredibly close with a voice of the same purity, timbre and beauty. I doubt there are many singers in any genre that could come close to singing Bridge Over Troubled Waters as well as Art but Charles almost did, it was truly amazing.
One thing that was different in this show from the real thing was the balance between the two performers. Although quiet and introverted Paul was very much the dominant partner, in this show it was Charles as Art who dominated. Philip Murray Warson, as Paul Simon, sang really nicely and played some tricky guitar parts well but it was Charles who was the front man. He really had Art off to a tee, including all the quirky little movements, waistcoats and thumbs in the waistband.
I remember when I first heard them sing in Les Cousins, the dingy basement folk club in Soho’s Greek Street in 1965, thinking that Art was a bit superfluous and Paul could manage very well by himself. I was there when Homeward Bound had its first public performance and Paul (Art had gone back to New York by then) was so popular, even then, that people would pay to sit on the steps leading down to the basement just to hear him through a closed door.
Simon and Garfunkel’s first couple of albums were largely rehashes of Paul’s old songs from his Songbook album, with Art putting on the harmonies and a bass and drums providing the rhythm. It wasn’t really until Bookends when Paul was writing specifically for Simon and Garfunkel that, for me, the act really gelled. But, after only one more album, the game-changing Bridge Over Troubled Waters, the duo split. I think the breakup was inevitable, not only because of the personality issues but because Paul Simon is essentially a one-man band, a singer-songwriter par excellence, possibly the greatest ever. He didn’t need support, as was shown by his string of incredible solo albums. Art managed very well after the split too, his first two solo albums being absolutely sublime.
This diversity was demonstrated in The Simon and Garfunkel Story with songs from each phase of the couple’s careers and some well-chosen, relevant film clips being shown – although it would have been nice for Art to have had a song from one of his own albums or Bright Eyes perhaps.
The excellent band, comprising Leon Camfield on bass, Adam Smith on guitar and keyboards and drummer Mat Swales, provided solid backing throughout and filled in some of the gaps with their short instrumental medley of some of the songs that had not made the cut.
So, was I glad I had finally seen The Simon and Garfunkel Story? Definitely, yes. Was this a worthy representation of a couple of guys I had known personally and whose albums I had faithfully bought? Yes, it was. If you were S & G fan you won’t be disappointed either. If you are too young to remember them I recommend you do yourself a favour and see this show, you don’t know what you have been missing. Michael Hasted at Schiedam on 11th March 2018