A warm February night in the Hunter Valley. It was Valentine’s Day and a waning moon. Is that significant? Is love on the decline in our increasingly commercial culture?
A group of old friends, school and uni, were gathered for the Paul Simon and Sting gig at Hope Estate. It seemed like yesterday I was at the same venue under balmy skies to watch the consummate act of the Rolling Stones (review here) go through their geriatric paces.
Geriatric is not a word you would use to describe the 64 year-old Sting, whose rippling muscles defined his slender torso. Sporting a hipster beard, he’s still got it. I was a Sting tragic in the 80s, and still have a fascination for his musical breadth and diverse interests. I was richly rewarded on Saturday night. He featured a lot of his wonderful jazz influenced 80s repertoire. When The World Is Running Down and Driven To Tears were probably less accessible for the audience than Roxanne, but they made my night as I had last seen them performed live in the 80s with Sting’s epic jazz line-up of Branford Marsalis, Darryl Jones, Kenny Kirkland and Omar Hakim.
Paul Simon is a little worn. But not bad for 74, his performing style is not the main attraction. A consummate song writer, with the commonality with Sting of an interest in world rhythms, hearing him perform his music which had its genesis 50 years ago was a pleasure. I listened rather than watched.
50 Ways to Leave Your Lover and Still Crazy after all These Years were lyrical and moody, while Diamonds on the Soles of her Shoes was wonderfully delivered and had the audience dancing in the aisles.
The Odd Couple did a couple of things that surprised me. When they sang each other’s songs they were really impressive. Simon’s rendition of Sting’s Fragile was poignant: highlighting the song’s political message. Sting’s back-story of America as the sound track to his first tour of the US gave a lovely new narrative twist to Simon’s lyrics.
I was least impressed with their duo singing. Their vocal styles are so different and don’t quite match. Not such a problem on Sting’s stuff, it really grated on Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel numbers. Sting is no Art Garfunkel, and I missed the pure, choir boy harmonies of the early Garfunkel. The Boxer, my favourite song of the original duo, in Saturday’s performance became formulaic and lacking in narrative strength. And the encore of Bridge Over Troubled Water, mostly delivered by Sting, was mundane and without real emotion. You just have to listen to Garfunkel’s singing of Simon’s lyrics to appreciate the beauty of the song.
It was a great night. I love to see musical legends of the 20th century perform live. These two, while not being a match made in heaven, were able to deliver a fairly representative selection of their musical history. And they clearly respect each other as musicians and people. There was a lot of hugging on stage, between the short one and the tall one, which was rather sweet.
And returning to Valentine’s Day – love off stage was there too. My old school friend and her husband, long time partners, danced bare foot in the aisles, absorbed in the moment and in each other, reviving even this old cynic’s view of life and love.
Paul Simon and Sting: Hope Estate Hunter Valley, 14 February 2015