Writer: Paul Simon
Reviewer: Dave Cunningham
The term ‘Tribute Act’ is often used simply as a shorthand way of attracting audiences who want an undemanding night out listening to live re-creations of songs by groups who have disbanded or no longer play live. In the case of Dan Haynes and Pete Richards, who perform under the name Bookends, there is the sense that the term is literal – the duo really is paying respect to Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel.
The tone for Simon and Garfunkel – Through the Years is deeply respectful. The between-song patter tends to be informative; briefing the audience on the background to songs, explaining how the duo adapted the recorded version to suit the format of the show or pointing out the original live show from which they selected their version. During their early years Simon and Garfunkel were categorised as ‘sensitive’ artists and Haynes and Richards do seem more comfortable with the quieter numbers than the more upbeat songs. It makes for a subdued educational atmosphere – it is only towards the end of the show that the audience feels relaxed enough to clap along.
The simple format of the show comes from the early years of Simon and Garfunkel when the duo performed as a folk act. Dan Haynes, who sings the Paul Simon parts, plays guitar while Pete Richards sings the Art Garfunkel harmonies. The differences between the Bookends versions of the songs and the originals are subtle but noticeable and are not only musical. Baby Driver is cut back to basics and somehow loses the rather sweet lasciviousness of the original.
Considering the contribution which drums and piano make to the recorded versions of the songs it seems odd that Haynes and Richards omit those instruments but add a string quartet. One might imagine that this would sweeten the music but actually, the swirl and plucking of the strings adds a sense of impetus and drama that pushes forward songs like Hazy Shade of Winter.
Despite the title, Bookends make no effort to adopt a chronological approach preferring to cherry pick from the duo’s back catalogue. They even jump forward and try a trio of songs from Paul Simon’s solo career to see how they might have sounded with his old partner assisting. Wisely they omit the ‘extra’ verse of The Boxer which Simon and Garfunkel tended to sing in live versions and which, to be honest, spoilt a masterpiece.
The only real hint of controversy in the evening is the performance of Bridge Over Troubled Water. Stripped of the orchestration the song loses its anthem status and the humble version seems a subdued show closer.
Simon and Garfunkel – Through the Years is a sincere tribute to the work of masters although, at times, one cannot help but wish Dan Haynes and Pete Richards could be a bit more irreverent and have a little more fun.
Reviewed on 28 June 2017 | Image: Contributed