Pat McEvoy’s weekly reviews as published in the Waterford News & Star
REVIEW: Theatre Royal: Simon & Garfunkel Through the Years
IT’S never a good idea to annoy your audience. So when Dan Haynes, the Paul Simon of the Duo, arrives on stage as his own support act – the irony of which would not have been lost on Paul Simon himself – with five pretty average and dated Simonish songs of his own before going to interval for another half-an-hour, annoyed punters on the night are left scratching the old craniums. A further announcement advising those who wanted a second drink to buy one, because the show would play straight through, is even more annoying. And so, the Simon & Garfunkel songfest that we had all anticipated at 8.00pm finally took flight at 8.55pm. before ending at 10.15pm. And all this for €28 a pop! More like a pontoon than a bridge over troubled waters.
Dan Haynes and Pete Richards are Bookends— the tribute group who clearly love Simon’s songs – and their singing and phrasing is just spot-on. Richards captures the magic of the truculent Garfunkel’s alto and the songs flow along in those tight harmonies that the duo were famous for.
There’s a real preppy feel to the evening that brings us all back to those college campus tours in the sixties that packed American students in and gave the duo fame outside the normal circuit. ‘Homeward Bound’, ‘Hazy Shade of Winter’, ‘Wednesday Morning 3am’ and ‘Most Peculiar Man’ are mellow and wistful and full of the emptiness of modern urban living.
Dan and Pete give us some, but not nearly enough, of the story of the duo that quarrelled from the off – even in elementary school in Queens, New York, where they first began singing together. With the growing interest in folk music in the early sixties, they reformed in 1963 without any great success. However, while Simon was touring folk-clubs in England and without his knowledge, Columbia released a new version of “The Sound of Silence”, overdubbed with electric guitar and drums that rocketed to No. 1 in the US charts and the duo were now a huge hit on the folk-rock scene. All the more puzzling then that Dan and Pete stuck with the original acoustic version of Sound of Silence for the show despite Johnny’s excellent electric guitar-playing.
Nevertheless, the acoustic is a sixties-treasure throughout and brings us right back to a world where authenticity and artistic integrity were prized and celebrated. ‘Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme’ and ‘Scarborough Fair’ is everything a folk song should be with the explosive consonants bursting from the front of the lips and the sibilants flowing through the work.
The Graduate tunes follow and the wonderful elegy to surely the most bored woman in song, Mrs. Robinson, is the show’s highlight. ‘Mrs. Robinson’ is Simon’s finest song; defining the emptiness of the woman who has everything to show but nothing to reveal.
Bookends do a fine job in recreating the acoustic sound, tight harmonies and exquisite diction of the Simon & Garfunkel sound but a fuller story with rear-screen projections of the duo and their albums along with some footage would go a long way to enhance this evening. The old adage of ‘don’t tell me, show me’ always applies and a good hard independent look at this production is long overdue.
Despite the fact that the duo sold some 100 million records and that their work was slick, professional and appealing, there was always the criticism that there was something missing and that not a whole lot happened in their music. By the time Bridge Over Troubled Waters happened, their sell-by date had already passed and the hugely-popular album itself is no more than a potpourri of the ordinary. Paul Simon’s subsequent work is so much more satisfying.
Nevertheless the short, if somewhat beige, show is well received and the amiable duo receive the usual standing ovation from the short-changed audience.