Saturday, November 28, 2009

21st Century Ray

I went through a major Kinks phase in the first half of the 1980's. Then, as now, I binged on records, but in my youth I didn't have much money, so the binge would take a while to accomplish. (Maybe that's not a binge then). Though I don't have every Kinks album, I did pretty well. I can still recall getting a double record set with the exotic British spelling called The Compleat Collection. Had to have that - it had "Sittin' On My Sofa," which The Fleshtones used to cover.

Yet, much to my amazement, then and now, I never saw The Kinks in concert. Oh, there were plenty of opportunities; they were always around. I just never got around to it. Even in the early '90's, when Ray Davies was touring around his autobiography X-Ray, I didn't go see him. Considering he played a week at The Royal George Theater in Chicago, that's more than not getting around to it. It seems a conscious effort to avoid all things Kinky.
Well, cross ol' Ray off the concert list. Me and the boys went to The Egg in Albany last Monday to see the great one. Why was he in Albany? It's hard to fathom. He's conducting a short tour with a chorus, and hitting only big cities. Albany? It must've been a mistake, but one we were glad to capitalize on.

The Kinks catalogue is rich beyond belief, and Davies dipped in for big hits and lost chestnuts. The first half of the show had Ray seated alongside guitarist Bill Shanley, and they opened with "I Need You," which I have on some cheapo compilation called Golden Hour, Vol. 2. An odd choice, to be sure. Ray asked the crowd, "Who's an individual?" Now, I know that old Steve Martin joke about The Non-Conformist's Oath, so I didn't join the masses in applauding their unique qualities while part of a mob. It was the prologue to a rousing version of "I'm Not Like Everybody Else." Soon after beginning "Where Have All the Good Times Gone," some exuberant fan belted out a line, to which Ray quipped, "He was here last night, and we weren't even playing." This kind of humorous repartee was in evidence all night long. We enjoyed him and he genuinely seemed to relish the crowd's love. At one point, he jauntily introduced "an Old English folk tune." As Ray strummed an ancient melody, to an unresponsive crowd, he wondered aloud, "Is it that bad?" With that, he segued into "A Dedicated Follower of Fashion." Oh yes he did!

The show was peppered with crowd participation. Ray loves a sing-song, and the audience happily obliged. One forgets how many hits the Kinks had. They were so overshadowed by The Beatles, The Stones and, let's face it, lots of others, yet they were huge and massively influential. "A Well-Respected Man," "Days," "Waterloo Sunset," "Come Dancing," Better Things," - monster songs that stretched over two decades. The crowd knew the words, I can assure you.

I happily sang along, and was relieved when he skipped the part in "Come Dancing" about the palais being torn down. That always makes me cry. "Come Dancing" is a remarkable example of how great a songwriter Ray Davies is. A smash hit, it is a deep take on nostalgia, lost youth and dashed dreams, disguised as a light hearted pop tune. A remarkable song if you think about it (which I did).

It's hard to fathom that Ray's solo career began only a few years ago with Other People's Lives, but it's true. That 2006 effort, followed by Working Man's Cafe, were well represented by a band that was so loud that I saw some cracks in The Egg. Davies has lost little since his heyday. The solo records are wonderfully catchy, brutally insightful, and a joy to hear.

The encore was thankfully long. Davies told us the story of sitting at the family piano in Muswell Hill, looking to write his first hit song. As he plunked out a few notes, his brother Dave came in from the kitchen and asked what he was playing. The sparse notes would grow into the legendary riff that was Dave's intro to "You Really Got Me." Ray joked about Dave all night, wearing a clear love-hate relationship with his former bandmate and brother on his sleeve. "20th Century Man" nearly blew the roof off the house, if the cockeyed oval that is The Egg has a clear roof line. I can't tell.

When Ray stood for the second half of the show, the full band set, I was shocked at how strikingly tall he was. He's also incredibly springy, leaping around the stage in an un-65 year old way. From where we sat, it was clear that the only real difference between Ray Davies today, and Ray Davies of 1980, is his receding hairline. Except for that, I felt that I'd finally caught up with one of my faves, still in his prime. I won't miss him again.

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Hope I Die Before I Get Old (Yeah, Right!)

I have bought fully into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame media blitz. In their 25th year, the Hall is going balls out for public exposure and money. The two-day concert event at Madison Square Garden raised millions for an endowment. Me and my fortunate sons were there to see night one, and it was spectacular. (Read the four posts on the show - If There's a Rock and Roll Heaven...).

Then, there's the new Rolling Stone, with Bono, Mick and Bruce and the cover, the entire issue dedicated to the performances and the Hall of Fame. It's self-promotion to be sure, but that's fine by me. Best yet. there's a DVD of the Induction ceremonies, the hands down best part of the institution. I ended up with the 3 disc set, although there's a 9 DVD box out there somewhere. I can only comment on Disc 1, but that took a few hours to go through.

The jams are fun, though no high level art. It's a hoot to watch little Paul Shaffer "conduct" the melee. I tell you, Springsteen is always having the most fun, whether it's singing "Oh, Pretty Woman" with his hero Roy Orbison, or harmonizing to "Green River" with his hero John Fogerty. Seeing Peter Green stand uncomfortably stage right as he joins Santana and the Green-penned "Black Magic Woman" is gripping; Green disappeared for years due to psychological and pharmaceutical issues. Prince rips the lid off "While My Guitar Gently Weeps." He is the best guitarist on the stage, but it seems like old warhorses like Tom Petty don't really appreciate him. Petty gives a condescending smirk as the former symbol wails away. only George's son Dhani Harrison revels in the fireworks.

The speeches are the best. That's when the real emotion spews forth. Jagger shows real affection for The Beatles, Fogerty shows intense hatred for the rest of Creedence. Clatpon's speech on wanting to join The Band tells a lot about the man, and was one of the springboards to the Maybe Baby blog. The bonus material on Disc 1 features full introductions. Springsteen's take on Jackson Browne as a chick magnet is hilarious. It explains Browne's greatness better than Jackson's own speech. Paul's "letter to John" is as much about Macca as about Lennon, but it is heartfelt and, when The Cute One embraces Yoko it is cathartic. A quick shot to the late Linda in the audience, weeping as she watches, is another heartbreaker.

There are some bits of real douchery. Brian Wilson's awkward reading is sad, for sure, but when Mike Love follows with a nasty speech, shitting on The Beatles, The Stones (was he drunk?), you realize what torment Brian went through working with this asshole. Jann Wenner reads The Sex Pistols' letter of refusal, to the guffaws of the tuxedoed audience. The big shots laughing at Johnny Rotten's spelling and spleen prove the nasty one is dead right. Pete Townshend's paean to his heroes The Stones is funny, sweet, uncomfortable and sincere.

How great must it have been for these guys to be young? The music, the girls, the money, the fame. Yet, growing old hasn't diminished them in the least. McCartney, The Stones, Dylan - they've invented what we think of as rock and are consistently creating what it means to be an aging rock star. They have stayed artistically vital and strong in a way that no one could have seen in the days when pop icons fizzled out by the age of 30.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

More on Failure

In all the years I was in trading, there was unavoidable competition with my friends and fellow traders. (There is a difference - not all of my fellow traders were my friends). It took years away from the scene to shake that trait and get down to how I felt about my place in life, regardless of whether some dope was making more dough than me. It hasn't gone away totally, but morphed into something slightly different.

At a Martin Short performance last month, he joked that his worst moments far exceeded the best parts of his audience's life. Funny, yes. True, I don't know. I do know that I look at some famous folks in the news lately and, yes, end up feeling much better off. That doesn't apply, though, to Jay-Z or Derek Jeter. They rule.

Take Nicolas Cage. Here's a guy who had a lot going for him and now he's on the skids. Once he was a great actor, really, and now he's a histrionic farce. But that's on the opinion side. Lately, he has made headlines because he owes the IRS $6 million in back taxes. To pay off this huge debt, the Steve Austin of tax evasion is selling off his plethora of homes, collecting the millions needed for the government. Sure, it helps to have a lot of houses, but if you gotta sell them to pay your bills, what's the point. And, now that he's divorced from Lisa Marie Presley, I bet he can't even go upstairs at Graceland anymore. Family only, you know.

Randy Quaid. Here's a guy with a fairly decent list of credits, a journeyman who has carved out a successful career as a character actor. My fave Quaid roles - Seaman Meadows in The Last Detail and Ishmael in Kingpin. So, how does he get to be an alleged felon, accused, along with his wife, of ripping off fancy hotels to the tune of tens of thousands of dollars? Strange, right? I wonder what he was thinking and how he goes forward from here. That always scares me, the very idea of having to start all over, just when it seems like everything is going well. How do you muster the strength to do it again? It must take more than being believable as an Amish bowling phenom.

I couldn't help but think long and hard on the nature of success and failure as I watched Brian Wilson last week (see previous post). A certifiable legend, but happy? I don't know. Pretty brutal upbringing with an abusive dad, inconsistent support from his band mates, who were also family, and a breakdown that lasted on and off for over 20 years. Is his a successful life? Hard to say, though I wouldn't want to switch places with him.

I used to play a game with myself (wait, that sounds wrong). I used to think about who I would rather switch places with. Paul McCartney - not bad, though the downsides are early death of mother & ridicule of press. Joe Namath - pretty good, though I'm not sure I like the burning out so fast. There were others whose lives I would inspect closely, in case of a "Freaky Friday"-like experience. I take it as a healthy sign that I don't think that anymore.

Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Smile? Sometimes

I've had Brian Wilson on the brain this week (and how often do I type Brian and it comes out "brain?" Almost all the time). The reasons will become apparent to some tomorrow. So, what a week to have seen him in concert.

J. and I had seen Brian's Smile tour when it stopped in Saratoga, four years ago, I think. It was amazing. Just seeing Brian Wilson is something. His troubled past is known to all in attendance and there's a lot of love and support sent his way from the crowd. He needs it, too. Not as fat as he was in the '70's, not as fit as he appeared in the late '80's, Wilson is a nervous hulk, sitting behind a tiny electric keyboard. His anxiety and awkwardness are always apparent, but were less front and center in 2005 when he and his amazing band went through the most famous lost album in rock.

Not so on Tuesday. Without the triumph of Smile, Wilson was shakier than the first time I'd seen him. He performed Beach Boy hits, as well as reaching for some lesser known album cuts. The Beach Boys were always, in my estimation, a hits-only type of group with the exception of Pet Sounds. I remember my shock when I started going through their LPs and found, to my delight, a huge catalog of great songs. When Brian and the band began playing "Salt Lake City," I was knocked out. It's an odd tribute to a square town, and a wonderfully incongruous tune. "Custom Machine," "The Little Girl I Once Knew" (which Wilson declared the best record he'd ever produced), joined the setlist, lost songs finally given their due.

The Beach Boys were an intensely competitive group. When the Mike Love-edition of the group played Doubleday Field in Cooperstown, also in 2005, Love trashed talked Justin Timberlake for some reason. Brian too dissed his rivals. "The Stones couldn't do a ballad like this," he boasted as an introduction to "Please Let Me Wonder." That song is, in my estimation, the greatest Beach Boy tune, and Brian's high, pristine tone on the original is one if the most beautiful vocals ever put to wax. It was sad to hear him now, straining for even the middle range. Yet, he is so compelling and tragic a figure that it works.

Wilson is childlike and he and The Beach Boys had a juvenile sense of humor. You can hear it on a few spoken word album tracks that made it as filler on their records. It was clear that that silliness would be on display during the show. Hell, they opened with "Monster Mash." A few jokes back and forth, with Brian and a band member referring to each other as "Pilgrim," was immediately tiresome.

While the Smile tour was a complete victory, this show was tinged with melancholy. Brian was so odd, so uncomfortable, so fragile. And, for the bulk of the concert, he and the group completely ignored Lucky Old Sun, Wilson's masterpiece from last year. Then, as the show was winding down, a troika of selections from Sun were played and they were magnificent. "Southern California," which looks back on his dream of singing with his brothers, will break your heart more than a big wave wipe out.

"At 25 I turned out the light, 'cause I couldn't handle the the glare in my tired eyes." Think about those lines from "Going Home." Brian Wilson was a kid when the pressures of writing, producing and recording got to him, resulting in a nervous collapse. What did he miss, what did we all miss, when he disappeared from the rock scene? He's back, and doing pretty well, but I couldn't help mull over the deep tragedy of the man. With the band winding down, I spotted Brian offstage, standing perfectly still, a sad figure bathed in blue light.

Sunday, November 8, 2009

No Success Like Failure...

... and failure's no success at all. I think I know what Dylan means, though every time I feel I've got it figured out, it's seems just out of reach.
What's success anyway? Me, I'm kicking back, working though not employed, and having a great time. That's something, right? But in my world, success is always accompanied by a feeling of emptiness, the short-lived high knocked down by the dread "what next" syndrome. Failure, at times can seem ennobling and enjoyable. So has been my last year of writing.

Having a go at a writing career is a bit daunting in a time when content is losing its financial value. Yet, the democratization of media is a wonderful thing, allowing musicians, writers, filmmakers, to do their thing, get it to the public, without someone having to give it the green light. But can the average Joe keep providing content for free? At some point, that's gotta change.

A best-selling author pal of mine constantly reminds me that I am in an unknown country and am doing pretty well in a field entirely new to me. In the last year, I've written two book proposals, one which made some headway with a literary agent, though, I was ultimately dropped. I've started two blogs, this one right here, and Maybe Baby. Maybe Baby has readers all over the world in only 5 months online. With 29 stories written, countless more to come and only 11 posted, Maybe Baby has seriously long legs. Plus, I had a book review published in the L.A. Dodgers official magazine.

Not bad, but not successful in the way I gauge things. Funny, we live in a world where outside approval from editors and record companies means less when, with a tap on the keyboard, you are out for all to see. Still, it'd be nice to have that approval.

I just finished reading Upton Sinclair's The Cup of Fury, an anti-alcohol polemic. Sinclair must've been a carrier of the alcoholic gene, because he had a huge amount of friends and family who were drop dead drunks. It's not a particularly great read, though it has a memorable dust cover that, unknown to ol' Upton, looks suspiciously like a serious serving of flaming shots.
What was most shocking was that Sinclair self-published! Even The Jungle was turned down by publishers until, after he put the muckraking classic out himself, it gained traction and was picked up. Had Sinclair lived today he would have been a blogger, for sure.
With that as inspiration, I'll keep plugging away. Will all the work get me anywhere? Maybe not, if you define "anywhere" in monetary terms, or as establishing some sort of career. Yet, as a great man once said, "There's no success like failure.." You know the rest.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

If There's a Rock & Roll Heaven, Then I Just Had a Near-Death Experience (Part 4)

What started as a movie about folk music quickly became a biography of Bruce Springsteen. That his pre-set flick was so personal showed how high Bruce sits above the rest. In the same way, his feature topped them all, ending with four lines from "This Land is Your Land," the first sung by Woody Guthrie, followed by Pete Seeger, Bob Dylan and The Boss.

"10th Avenue Freeze-out" rang in the party, a perfect New York-y tune that the faithful ate up. Bruce couldn't wait to bring out his guests, the first being Sam Moore of Sam and Dave. Starting out with "Hold On, I'm Coming," it was hard to know which group was having more fun, the one on stage, or the one in the concert hall. Bruce was in his element, playing along with a hero of his youth who, he proclaimed, taught Springsteen much about being a bandleader. The backup singers were prancing around, having a hard time containing their joy. Sam was ready for the next tune and asked Bruce, "Can I talk to your man there?"

"Not yet," said Bruce.

"Can I talk to your man over there," Moore indicating Steve van Zandt.

"We gotta finish this first," Bruce smiled.

Finally Steve got into the act with the opening riff to "Soul Man," and I swear the roof of the Garden lifted just a bit.

Moore left and Bruce introduced Tom Morello. Morello, whose guitar heroics rocketed the sound of Rage Against the Machine to the stratosphere, duetted with Bruce on "The Ghost of Tom Joad," which RATM had covered on their Renegades album. Morello was insane, waving his hand around the guitar neck as if he were playing a theremin, using one of the cable plugs to push the strings, ungodly stuff that made Jeff Beck's dynamic solo for "Superstition" seem like a tasty Les Paul lick.

In "Him," Lily Allen sings that God's favorite band is Creedence Clearwater Revival and, well, who could argue? I remember a Springsteen show in Rochester, late '80 or early '81, where the band played CCR during sound check. Bruce brought out John Fogerty and it was clear there's a real bond between the two, even though, as Springsteen mentioned, he'd covered Fogerty's songs when he was 18 years old.

"Fortunate Son," the most perfect rock and roll song in tempo, duration and content, led off the mini-set. "Proud Mary" had the MSGer's singing their heads off. Bruce talked about Roy Orbison's influence on his songwriting and, because he didn't have the guts to do it alone, asked Fogerty to join him on "Oh, Pretty Woman." With that done, and well done I might add, Bruce said the band would do a "song by some other guy," and a ferocious "Jungleland" ensued.

Darlene Love, darling of the Phil Spector girl groups, was ushered in and, I gotta tell you, The E Street Band can do everything. For "A Fine, Fine Boy" and "Da Doo Ron Ron," the Spector studio created Wall of Sound was reproduced live. It was something of a sonic miracle. Bruce couldn't be happier.

Love left the stage after a smooch or two, and Morello reappeared. Springsteen announced they'd do a song from one of the greatest groups to come out of England. The Beatles? The Stones? The Animals? Nope, much to his credit, it was The Clash. "London Calling" segued into "Badlands" and, after all this, it was hard to not give 'em a smile.

But that's not all folks. Looking for an excuse to keep playing, Bruce said, well, since the Yanks won, we gotta do more. But first, he addressed the crowd behind the stage. "We see you back there. How much did they charge you for those tickets? Hope they were free. Anyone from New Jersey?" When a few applauded to signify their Garden State status, Bruce quipped, "That explains it."

That wasn't all for Jersey. Professor Springsteen gave a geological lecture explaining that, though not everyone knows it, Jersey and Long Island were once connected, way before the continental drift, which is why the populaces are so similar. Tonight, on the neutral ground of Manhattan, the kings of New Jersey and Long Island would have it out and the reunion of the two land masses took rock and roll form as Billy Joel joined Bruce on stage.

I'd come full circle. My first show ever was a Billy Joel show at the Garden, and that memory came rushing over me. I never think of these two together, Joel is Springsteen-lite. "You May Be Right" gained some sack given the E Street treatment and Bruce was positively gleeful belting it out. When Billy sings, it's a faux toughness, a posture. Bruce added heft to Joel's tunes. "Only the Good Die Young" is thematically the same as "Thunder Road," but more clownish. Everyone was having a ball and, when they flubbed the ending, Bruce said "it can't end on that," and they got it right the second time around.

"New York State of Mind" sounded fine, if you like that sort of thing. "Born to Run" laid everything in the dust. Billy Joel, searching for the balls needed for the Springsteen anthem, reached for a Bruce impersonation to do the trick. You may gather that I'm not a fan of Billy Joel. That's true, but having him onstage was a great surprise and a monumental moment, regardless of what I think of his crappy songs. It was a Tri-State music fans' wet dream.

Bruce brought everyone back out for the finale, including Jackson Browne from the CSN set, and Peter Wolf of J. Geils, who, once upon a time would have warranted a real spot on the roster. They left us with Jackie Wilson's hit "(Your Love Keeps Lifting Me) Higher and Higher" and, after six hours, we were as high as could be, sailing over the Garden, floating on a breeze of musical history.

If There's a Rock & Roll Heaven, Then I Just Had a Near-Death Experience (Part 3)

The Garden was at a real high when Simon & Garfunkel ended their set. The best movie of the night followed, connecting the Motown years with the Civil Rights movement, ending with a picture of Obama. So obvious, yet, I have to say, I never saw it coming. Maybe because I was focused on the music to come. Stevie Wonder! The place went nutty.

Then, technical difficulties. There was no sound. We all watched as Stevie sat at the piano, tapping on the mike to no avail, getting increasingly agitated. With every silent minute, Wonder bobbed his head more and more frantically. Why didn't anyone go out to help him? It was not only uncomfortable to witness, but it sucked all the energy out of the building.

Finally, one live mike was found and, when Wonder yelled "Hello New York," the cheers were thunderous. This was, Stevie proclaimed, the 20th anniversary of his induction into the rock hall, and the 5oth anniversary of Motown Records. Were we ready to "turn this mutha out?" he wondered. Oh yeah, we were.

More sound problems followed, and after a loud "Aw shit!," Wonder sat down. OK, a little change was in order. "Can you hear this?" he asked. We could. "Is this good?" as he hit some keys. It was. Alright then. In honor of Bob Dylan, Stevie went into "Blowin' in the Wind." Great choice, great salute to rock history and a sing-songy tune to counter the sound problems.

Though the sound would continue to plague the performance for awhile, Wonder was undeterred. "Wanna hear some Little Stevie Wonder?" he asked, as if referring to another person. "Uptight," with vocals a tad muted, led it off, then Stevie stopped abruptly and soared into "I Was Made to Love Her." He had the crowd going now, and pushed them further with "For Once in My Life," "Signed, Sealed, Delivered," and "Boogie On Reggae Woman." The short, Vegas-y versions, not as short as a medley, not as long as a regular version, bugged me. His songs are too good for that kind of treatment. The sound was still not perfect and, though I love Stevie Wonder, I couldn't help but pray that this better be fixed in time for Bruce.

A litany of guests were scheduled to play during the set. The first was Smokey Robinson, who came on for "Tracks of My Tears." John Legend came on to do a bit of Marvin Gaye with "Mercy Mercy Me." Legend is fine, but he's no Marvin. No one is. Wonder invited his guest to sit at the piano and a remarkable thing happened next.

In tribute to Michael Jackson, Stevie began a pulsing version of "The Way You Make Me Feel." Watching on the video screen, it seemed as if Wonder was having a seizure and, with his singing suddenly halted, there was a bit of confusion. Then it became apparent that he was breaking down, weeping hard over the death of his fallen comrade. Stevie got it together and resumed the song, urging the crowd with "All hail Michael Jackson. We love Michael Jackson. Long live Michael Jackson." It was the most genuine emotional moment of the night. Wonder also paid respects to Lennon, Hendrix and Marley, but he Michael on his mind.

B.B. King slowly made his way onstage for a swing at "The Thrill is Gone." B.B. and Lucille left and Stevie performed "Living For the City." From there, he tore into "Higher Ground," Sting joining on bass. "Higher" dovetailed into "Roxanne," and the song never sounded better than with Wonder wailing on "red light." Then, back to "Higher," and out.

The last guest of the night was Jeff Beck. The connection here is that Wonder had written "Superstition" and was giving it to Beck, but then recorded it first for a hit. Some bad feeling there, but that was 35 years ago. Tonight, Beck was there to tear it open, and he did.

That's was it. Stevie stood up and said "we gotta go." The crowd gave out a big cheer for the Yankees score, a 3-1 victory over the Phillies in Game 2. Now, we all waited for Bruce.

Monday, November 2, 2009

If There's a Rock & Roll Heaven, Then I Just Had a Near-Death Experience (Part 2)

It was hard to know how the evening would unfold. Clearly, Springsteen was gonna headline, but the rest of the order was up for grabs. When CSN ended and the screen slowly dropped, the shot of the New York skyline that began the next film was all we needed to know that Paul Simon was up next.

Starting the night with "Diamonds On the Soles of Her Shoes," Simon made a clear connection between his mid-'80's "Graceland" period and the 1950's doo-wop sound that he loved growing up in Queens. It's a constant source of fascination that "Diamonds" and other tunes from that LP are singalong favorites. The lyrics are inscrutable, yet there were tens of thousands gleefully joining in with words that have no apparent meaning.

Not so with the next tune, "Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard." The enthusiasm of the crowd led Paul to quip, "Must be a lot of people here from Corona." Then, building on the frenzy, came "You Can Call Me Al," which brought everyone to their feet for the first time of the night.

With that, Simon introduced one of his '50's heroes, "one of the great voices of New York," down from Belmont Ave. in the Bronx, Dion DiMucci. "Yo!" Dion addressed the crowd with a familiar Bronx cheer and the even more familiar "The Wanderer." Simon joined two members of his band to form a singing trio, hunched around an imaginary oil drum, flames flickering over the rim as they stood at a street corner in their minds. Paul seemed very happy. Dion was one and done, and, after he left, Simon held center stage and created the first surprise of the concert.

Paying tribute to a friend that he loved, a friend who held the first benefit ever at MSG in 1971, Simon asked David Crosby and Graham Nash to join him in a version of George Harrison's "Here Comes the Sun." Now, the fact that Beatle George's benefit was to help save the starving masses in flood torn Bangla Desh, and this night's benefit was on behalf of the non-profit idea of the corporate giants at Rolling Stone was lost on the crowd. The night was irony free. It doesn't bother me one bit, I'm just sayin'. As to the song itself, it was a beautiful moment, and a new CSN was born.

The next bit of irony came after C & N left, Simon proceeding with "Late in the Evening." One Trick Pony, Simon's failed film effort of 1980, is a pretty good tale of a faded 1960's star named Jonah who recoils at the idea of simply parading his old chart toppers. Instead, Jonah wants to maintain his artistic relevance. Simon has definitely succeed where Jonah couldn't. Paul's last LP Surprise was an amazing disc that found him partnered with Brian Eno. For this night, Simon was Jonah, giving the crowd what they wanted. "Late in the Evening," the hit from the movie, was what they wanted.

Paul spoke of his radio listening days as a kid, and his devotion to Alan Freed, and he introduced Little Anthony & The Imperials. The resplendent group, who first met at the Ft. Greene Projects in Brooklyn, noted that they used to sing in the 34th & Lexington Subway station, right down the street. "Two People in the World" was an a Capella knockout.

I wondered how Simon & Garfunkel would appear. It seemed unlikely that Paul would introduce Art. I'm sure Garfunkel wouldn't stand for being brought on as a guest of Paul. So, after Little Anthony, there was a small delay and, with spotlight stage left, the two walked on together, but apart.

First, "Sounds of Silence" to a crazed crowd. New Yorkers love their Simon & Garfunkel, local boys who made good. "Mrs. Robinson" became a mini-tour of rock history. The song morphed into a Bo Diddley, "Mona" infused guitar riff. Would they play that? I was intrigued. Instead, they turned that phasing guitar into "Not Fade Away," then, back to Mrs. R. "The Boxer" followed, not one of my faves, and the interminable ending "la la lies" was mercifully short. By the way, Paul always thought that bit went on too long.

Of course, the final song would have to be "Bridge Over Troubled Water." Artie's voice was a bit husky, a tad fuzzy, emphasizing his overall Jewish grandfatherly image. Paul belted the hell out of the verse he sang, totally outdoing his friend/rival/enemy/partner/nemesis.

Total standing ovation, which led to an encore of "Cecilia." Jubilation indeed. The MSG mob was delirious with joy, but not so our uneasy duo. With the music over, Artie gave Paul a hug, and a friendly tap, from which Paul recoiled. He immediately bolted and they exited as they entered, several steps apart in a tense ceasefire.

Next up, Stevie Wonder.