Friday, July 16, 2004

Hyde Park: Feelin' Groovy  

I always knew Simon & Garfunkel were good, but I didn’t know they had cosmic connections – how else do you explain the amazing cloud formation that created a kind of second-tier proscenium arch above the stage in Hyde Park last night?  A narrow curving band of high cloud, horizon to horizon, wisps radiating outwards from a focal point at the centre of the stage, lit bright silver, then gold, then pink before eventually fading into grey.  Cosmic.  Even the rain clouds were diverted to pass far to the south of us, leaving us bathed in glorious summer evening sunshine.
The set itself was roughly 100 yards away from where we sat; Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel just two unrecognisable spotlit figures in the distance, but with four huge screens and a PA system including 156 speaker cabinets (yes, saddo engineer that I am, I counted them!) we were completely immersed in the experience; one gigantic stage, one mega-show, at one with one huge audience.
Usually I avoid crowds like the plague.  Something about crowd behaviour and loss of individuality repels me.  But this crowd had a good feel to it; there’s something magical about the way the positive vibes of quiet anticipation spread amongst the crowd and join us together.  Perhaps it was we knew we shared something in common – and that wasn’t just age, although it wasn’t too hard to see from the percentage of heads in front that featured greying and/or thinning hair that the age profile of the audience was heavily weighted around middle-age.
The show was near-perfect.  I guess everyone hoped and expected it would be, and I didn’t see anyone disappointed.  The magic is still there - Art Garfunkel can still sing, Paul Simon can still play guitar, and the songs sound as good as ever; maybe even better, like with the new acoustic guitar opening to Homeward Bound.  Every one a classic, and with none of the softening of the sounds or smoothing of the rhythms that you sometimes get as ageing hippies try and fail to recapture the hard edge of youth.  That this was so was rather reinforced by the appearance on stage at half time of the Everly Brothers, who looked every bit what they were – a couple of ageing rockers, sporting sagging jowls and bellies.  They didn’t appear at the closing bows – they must have already been back at their hotel, tucked up in bed sipping warm milk. 
How can I possibly describe the atmosphere?  The exuberance that had the entire audience rising from their seats and jigging happily to the rhythms of Mrs Robinson?  And getting up on their feet at every opportunity thereafter?  Or the rapt attention to the timeless American Tune?  You had to be there…
I could stop there, with the uplifting feel of a wonderful evening of great music, but this is a weblog, not a critical review.  My evening didn’t end there; when eventually we got back to King’s Cross station we found that, owing to planned engineering works, there were no trains home.  We’d have to take a train part of the way and then transfer to a bus, adding half an hour to the journey.  Apparently this had been displayed in small print on a poster hidden in some quiet corner of the station.  Not, as you might reasonably have expected, on an unavoidably eye-catching notice on the way in.  It wouldn’t have been so bad if it had been easy to find this information out, but no-one I asked seemed to know a great deal and in the process of getting redirected from one blank face to another I rather lost my rag, shouting some rather uncharitable things to the retreating back of the ticket clerk.  Completely uncalled for, quite out of character for me, and in total contrast to the feelings of happiness and well-being from earlier in the evening.  It’s left a rather unpleasant taste in the mouth, a barrier between me and the memory of that evening.
Where did that anger come from all of a sudden?  I don’t know; I’m baffled.  Sometimes I find I just don’t know myself; I wonder who I really am. 
Many's the time I've been mistaken,
and many times confused
Yes, and I've often felt forsaken
and certainly misused.
Ah, but I'm all right, I'm all right
I'm just weary to my bones
Still you don't expect to be bright and bon vivant,
so far away from home,
so far away from home.
And I don't know a soul who's not been battered.
I don't have a friend who feels at ease.
I don't know a dream that's not been shattered,
or driven to its knees.
Ah, but it's all right. It's all right.
For we've lived so well so long.
Still, when I think of the road we're travelin' on
I wonder what's gone wrong.
I can't help but wonder what's gone wrong.
And I dreamed I was dying.
I dreamed that my soul rose unexpectedly,
and looking back down at me, smiled reassuringly.
And I dreamed I was flying,
and high up above my eyes could clearly see
the Statue of Liberty sailing away to sea.
And I dreamed I was flying.
And we come on the ship they call the Mayflower.
We come on the ship that sailed the moon.
We come in the age's most uncertain hours,
and sing an American tune.
Oh, and it's all right, it's all right,
it's all right.
You can't be forever blessed.
Still tomorrow's gonna be another working day
and I'm tryin' to get some rest;
that's all - I'm trying to get some rest.

- American Tune, by Paul Simon –
From "There Goes Rhymin' Simon", 1973

Thanks to Pineapple Girl for the lyrics; you can also hear the song at her site.

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