Simon and Garfunkel play classic concert

When Art Garfunkel, of '60s folk-rock duo Simon and Garfunkel, called "Kathy's Song" a song of "sweet nostalgia" at Sunday night's sold-out show in Toronto, the same could have been said of the entire evening.

"Sorry it took us so long to get this together," Garfunkel told the audience of more than 18,000. "But we're thrilled to be here."

When singer-songwriter Paul Simon and Garfunkel announced plans to reunite for a North American winter tour dubbed the "Old Friends" tour-their first in over 10 years-graying baby-boomers and smart twenty-somethings, too young to remember the couple's heyday, rejoiced.

The evening opened with a video montage of pictures of the duo spanning their entire careers-together and solo-juxtaposed with pictures from important world events and ending with a picture of the Air Canada Centre with its screen boldly announcing the night's show.

Then, two spotlights pooled the stage, illuminating the denim-clad duo in its familiar pose-Simon with Martin acoustic in hand and the lanky Garfunkel to his right, hands clasped loosely behind his back-sending a collective tingle through the audience and prompting an immediate standing ovation, the first of a least a half-dozen.

Predictably, they opened with "Old Friends[Bookends]," and were then joined by their talented seven-piece band for "A Hazy Shade of Winter" and nearly 30 more old favorites.

While their timing was occasionally off, the duo's voices blended as naturally as they did in the '60s when they were hailed as ambassadors, and Simon as the poet laureate, of a generation. Though he occasionally strained for the high notes, Garfunkel's pure tenor nicely complimented Simon's boxier tone.

The duo has been friends for 50 years, Garfunkel said. In fact, they met in a middle school production of "Alice in Wonderland," where Garfunkel played, as Simon joked, a supporting role to his lead.

The duo started recording together under the moniker Tom and Jerry and even played its first pre-Simon and Garfunkel single "Hey Schoolgirl" at Sunday's show. Simon credited that song to a heavy influence of Phil and Don Everly-The Everly Brothers-the tour's special guests.

They appeared midway through the set and performed "Wake Up Little Susie," "All I Have To Do Is Dream" and "Let It Be Me." Their close-harmony sounded as fresh as it did when they performed on "The Ed Sullivan Show" in the late 1950s. The headliners then returned and joined the brothers - their "heroes," according to Simon - for a jazzed up version of "Bye Bye Love."

In his introduction to "Kathy's Song," Garfunkel mentioned how the premise for the song came from the duos days of "busking"-playing folk music on street corners for money-in suburban London in the early 1960s.

A breakup at the end of the decade ended their collaboration, but they've since reunited several times - most notably for a free concert in Central Park in 1981.

Their ages - both are in the early 60s - hint at the fact that this might be the last time the duo undertakes such an extensive tour. As the tour winds down and around the East Coast, with back-to-back shows at D.C.'s MCI Center on Dec. 14 and 15, the duo has become amicable, letting bygones be bygones.

They've mellowed in their old age, built up respect for each other and even joked about the grievances that eventually broke them up. "We don't argue anymore," Simon said.

"We only argued about one thing that really set off everything else," Garfunkel countered. "I wanted to call it Garfunkel and Simon."

An added bonus Sunday night came in the form of "Slip Slidin' Away" and "American Tune," two songs written post-breakup that Simon always imagined sharing with his friend.

Tender moments came in their renditions of "Scarborough Fair," featuring Mark Stewart on cello; "Bridge Over Troubled Water," in which Simon and Garfunkel alternated singing verses; and "Leaves That Are Green," which hadn't been performed live since 1967.

Perennial classics "I Am a Rock" and "The Boxer" - which closed the first encore - were endearing and authentic but a little too heavy. There's something so overwhelmingly powerful about the subtler accompaniment on the master recordings that a theremin solo on "The Boxer" seemed distracting.

The seed for this tour was planted early this year when the duo performed at the Grammys, according to Simon. The fact that they have a new 2-CD compilation to promote probably helped.

Whatever the motive, they looked comfortable and content, leading the audience to believe that when Simon sang, "Tonight I'll sing my songs again. I'll play the game and pretend," on "Homeward Bound," the phrase doesn't apply anymore.

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