Confession time. I was grumpy. The start time was advertised as 7:00pm and the band had not hit the stage by 7:10, and as I had another gig to get to after this one, the delay probably meant I would be late.
Then the show started with a superfluous video promoting the show that was due to start ten minutes earlier. The sound coming from this film was poorly mixed, and we even had to endure a recording of Peter Goers’ raspy cackle hurting our ears as he gave the show his approval / kiss of death.
It was not an auspicious start.
But then…lawdy, lawdy! Harry Baulderstone and Marcus Ryan, with their crack band of ring-in musos (Alex Flood, Dylan Kuerschner & David Goodwin) hit the stage and, within seconds, all was forgiven!
This show – a reprise of the duo’s successful Adelaide Fringe show, and this time with full band – was an absolute triumph from the opening chords to the last note.
The set ranged over the expected hits but also included a range of interesting and unexpected songs from Simon & Garfunkel’s canon of peerless tunes.
The vocals were pitch perfect, and the harmonies the two frontmen conjured up sent shivers of pleasure rippling through the Top Of The Ark – where a large crowd had turned up to see the show.
Many of these were obviously converted acolytes who had seen the Fringe show earlier in the year and were back for more.
Starting with a rousing Hazy Shade Of Winter, which also showed the guitar virtuosity of these two ‘cool ex-choristers’, the band hit the ground at full pace and then offered up, in quick succession, a terrific version of I Am A Rock (which featured an effective tempo change-up mid-song); a gorgeous America (which featured a tasty guitar solo); and a surprise rendition of Why Don’t You Write Me? – the first of a number of unexpected delights that would come our way during the evening.
The show’s buoyant titular song then followed, serving as an upbeat intro to Homeward Bound, one of the set’s many highlights, which was replete with Doobie Brothers-ish guitar riffing. Fantastic stuff.
A short medley of songs by Simon & Garfunkel’s main inspiration, The Everly Brothers, came next, consisting of lively takes on Wake Up Little Susie and Bye Bye Love, before giving a nod of recognition to Simon’s solo career with Slip Slidin’ Away, another unexpected choice but one that was perfectly rendered and which maintained the pace and balance of the set.
The delicate El Condor Pasa, and an inspired version of At The Zoo, which segued into an exhilarating Baby Driver, came before the moving Old Friends which led us out of the first third of the show.
The backing musicians temporarily left the stage and an ‘acoustic’ bracket followed which delivered to us a short and breezy version of Tom & Jerry’s Hey Little Schoolgirl In The Second Row, demonstrating the thorough preparation the duo had put into preparing their show through their desire to cover all facets of the superstars’ performing career.
Scarborough Fair was then delivered faithfully to the transfixed audience who revelled in Baulderstone and Ryan’s pristine, immaculate harmonies, just as we did during their poignant rendering of the too often overlooked gem, Kathy’s Song, which followed this.
Another unusual choice, Leaves That Are Green, led into Sounds Of Silence (instead of vice versa, as it was on the original 1966 album), and maintained the quality and the emotion of the performance. Sounds Of Silence however, was possibly the best cover version of the song I have heard to date. The band, returning to the stage mid-song, were immediately right on the money, the piano fills, in particular, were stunning, and the counterpoint vocals were evocatively powerful.
Baulderstone, earlier in the evening, had promised that this would be a long show, but I did not think it possible that they could better the peak set by that version of Silence, yet after a couple of infectious romps through Mrs Robinson and Keep The Customers Satisfied, they did just that, with a sublime interpretation of The Only Living Boy In New York.
My Little Town seemed like the first misstep in the show – but only because it was wedged between the magnificence of Only Living Boy and Ryan’s audacious performance of the Art Garfunkel vocal tour-de-force, Bridge Over Troubled Water.
The fact that the audience could not contain their admiration, cheering at the end of each verse in this much-loved song, was testimony to Ryan’s beautifully controlled delivery. Goose bump inducing brilliance.
My window of opportunity to get to my next commitment was rapidly disappearing, but I could not bring myself to leave just yet, hoping that they would deliver The Boxer before my departure.
They did deliver it, but not before another Simon solo classic, the ironically titled (due to my circumstances anyway), Late In The Evening, which raised the tempo again.
The Boxer was worth the wait – even though their delivery of the line ‘…and cut him ’till he cried out…‘ lacked the spitting conviction of the original – and it provided an emphatically energetic finish to the main set.
Still unable to depart the venue in case the duo played on, I compromised and positioned myself in the sprinter’s position at the exit, primed to go as soon as the encore – the singalong favourite Cecilia – had finished.
I just made it to the next commitment on time – the traffic light gods were kind – and I realised all traces of my earlier grumpiness had completely dissipated, replaced instead by that endorphin induced high that comes after enjoying one of life’s great highs: a live performance that exceeded all expectations.
You know what? I was actually feeling’ pretty damned groovy!
Feelin’ Groovy – The Songs Of Simon & Garfunkel was performed at The Top Of The Ark, The Arkaba, on 25 June.