<preform>Simon & Garfunkel, MEN Arena, Manchester </preform>

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The Independent Culture

As you'd expect, the greying audience for Simon and Garfunkel's first UK show in 30 years is similar to that which regularly turns out for Bob Dylan's concerts, but with one major difference: if the usher had tried to get a Dylan audience to join in a Mexican wave while they were waiting, he would have got pretty short shrift.

As you'd expect, the greying audience for Simon and Garfunkel's first UK show in 30 years is similar to that which regularly turns out for Bob Dylan's concerts, but with one major difference: if the usher had tried to get a Dylan audience to join in a Mexican wave while they were waiting, he would have got pretty short shrift. But this crowd is here to have a good time, and they aren't let down by a show brandishing the good taste that marks the duo's recordings.

Perhaps mindful of their audience's possibly shaky memories, they take the stage in darkness while a video biography of their career plays to a version of the "America" riff. When the lights go up to reveal Arty in his trademark waistcoat and Pauly in red T-shirt and jacket, the crowd rises for the first of many standing ovations.

Their first couple of songs, "Old Friends" and "Hazy Shade Of Winter", seem to have been chosen to confront the age question that inevitably accompanies such reunions, with their references to "time, time, time, see what's become of me", and, "how terribly strange to be 70". But having grasped that nettle they slip smoothly into their hits, starting with "I am a Rock". The song boasts the night's only major lyric change, Simon doubtless having decided that the reference to a "silent shroud of snow" carried too much adolescent baggage to be repeated at his age.

"America" is just beautiful, as wistful and evocative as ever, and a medley of "At The Zoo" and "Baby Driver" allows the band to rock out a little before Garfunkel takes a solo vocal on "Cathy's Song". "It's very easy to sing when the songs are this good," he gushes, explaining that the tour marks the 50th anniversary of the duo's earliest collaboration. Simon adds that it also represents "the 48th anniversary of our arguments", a cute cue for their teenage hit "Hey Schoolgirl", after which Simon apologises for its "oo-bop-a-lu-chi-bop" chorus. "They won't be putting up any plaques on railway stations to that," he says (a reference to the plaque at Widnes station where he composed "Homeward Bound" while touring in the Sixties).

The duo's youthful effort, Simon explains, was an attempt to emulate their heroes the Everly Brothers - who arrive right on cue to perform a breathtaking trio of hits ("Wake Up Little Susie", "All I Have To Do Is Dream" and "Let It Be Me") before Simon and Garfunkel join them for "Bye Bye Love".

The rest of the show becomes something of a singalong, with "Homeward Bound", "Mrs Robinson" and even "Bridge Over Troubled Water" tackled with gusto by the capacity crowd. The only dip comes with the lacklustre "My Little Town", but there's compensation aplenty in a version of Simon's solo "Slip Slidin' Away". "This is a song that was not recorded by Simon and Garfunkel," he observes, adding regretfully, "it should have been". It has now.



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