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Concert Reviews:


Posted: Sunday, February 9, 2020

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DETROIT -- We are highly unlikely to see Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel together again any time soon. If ever.

Fortunately we now have "The Simon & Garfunkel Story" to fill that void.

The quasi-theatrical production, which played Saturday, Feb. 8, at the Fox Theatre, is neither reinvention nor incredible simulation. But the two-act, nearly two-hour (plus intermission) show wears a winning affection for the legendary duo on its sleeve, and it's hard not to be sucked into its world of timeless pop and folk-rock classics, from the opening "The Sound of Silence" to the final encore of "The Boxer."

"The Simon & Garfunkel Story" -- which covers the pair's childhood friendship in Queens through its 1981 reunion concert before 500,000 in New York's Central Park -- took a "Beatlemania"-lite approach to telling the tale, using photos and video footage to provide historical perspective; Particularly effective was the juxtaposition of Vietnam War and protest images during the delicate "Scarborough Fair," as well as the pastiche of lines from "The Graduate" at the start of the second act, before "Mrs. Robinson."

Taylor Bloom (Simon) and Ben Cooley (Garfunkel) provided between-song narrative as themselves rather than in character, and the script offers a light traipse through the music and the men. There was little in the way of depth and scholarly insight, and the duo's famously turbulent relationship is largely glossed over and explained as a victim of its great success during the 60s. Even the late-show run through later-career facts on the video screen sidesteps issues such as aborted albums and a 2010 tour canceled after a New Orleans Jazz and Heritage Festival performance that remains Simon & Garfunkel's last -- while making it abundantly clear that Simon has fared far better than Garfunkel outside of the duo.

"The Simon & Garfunkel Story's" emphasis, then, is on "Feelin' Groovy," and Bloom and Cooley get abundant credit for that. Though Cooley's look was spot-on Garfunkel and their five outfit changes were true to their characters, they were not a kind of close-your-eyes-and-they're-there reincarnate. But, backed by a tight four-piece band they're both exceptional singers and nailed the luscious harmonies that are Simon & Garfunkel's enduring stock in trade. (Bloom, meanwhile, acquits himself well on guitar, too.)

The repertoire ran deep, taking on not just the hits but also just as potent, less-celebrated material such as "Richard Cory," "The Big Bright Green Pleasure Machine," "Patterns," "Voices of Old People," "Punky's Dilemma," "Fakin' It," "Keep the Customer Satisfied" and "Baby Driver." Bloom delivered an affecting version of "The Only Living Boy in New York," while Cooley soared where he had to -- on "For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her" and, of course "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which earned a deserved standing ovation.

Ultimately "The Simon & Garfunkel Story" succeeded more as tribute show than theatrical production, but perhaps for the best. Only the truly hard-hearted could walk out of the show not humming at least a few of the duo's enduring classics.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff


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