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In It For The Money

Repost from Relayers:

They don't see red; they see the green
Simon & Garfunkel know there's loot in tour circuit

By Sean Piccoli
South Florida Sun-sentinel
Originally published December 15, 2003

In September, Paul Simon said of Old Friends, his first tour in 20
years with longtime duet partner Art Garfunkel, "This is probably the
last time."

Note the "probably." Along with keeping the duo's options open, the
phrasing acknowledged a maxim of the trade: Once a beloved pop star
embraces the farewell/reunion circuit, it can be hard to stop.

Touring brings in revenue much harder to collect through record sales
in the age of Internet file-sharing and reissue fatigue. For artists
of a certain vintage, the general decline in back-catalog income
(documented by the album-sales ticker Nielsen SoundScan) compounds
the tendency of a body of work to recede into history.

Hitting the road can give a nudge to album sales. But arena concerts
increasingly are their own reward for the baby boom generation's
surviving idols.

Tickets for Simon and Garfunkel, at the MCI Center last night and
tonight, go for up to $251.50 at face value. Whatever their
guarantee - the fee the band charges the promoter, who in turn sets
the ticket price - they have joined the Stones, the Eagles and Paul
McCartney on the price-up escalator for personal appearances. The old
friends known for long stretches of mutual hostility will, by some
estimates, gross $50 million for a 30-city, tour that concludes on
Dec. 21 in Tampa, Fla.

Some things are worth not fighting for. As Simon said of the up-and-
down relationship in September: "We're fine now."

Simon and Garfunkel, both 62, have not recorded a new set of original
songs since Bridge Over Troubled Water in 1970. They made no hard
promises in September to return to the studio. "It's a
possibility. ... Not a probability, though," Garfunkel told USA
Today. Such reserve makes them comparatively honest. The Eagles have
played footsie with their fans for years, hinting at progress on a
new album - still - while cleaning up on serial road reunions.

The Rolling Stones released slap-dash studio albums in the 1990s -
Bridges to Babylon, Voodoo Lounge - that likewise did little more
than put logos on corresponding stadium treks and souvenir T-shirts.
The band dropped that charade altogether on its two most recent
outings, save for the live album No Security.

So what is wrong with all this activity in a free market? Simon and
Garfunkel have the same right as any pop titan to cash in, or
otherwise meet the pent-up demand for their services.

The repertoire is undeniably staggering. It ranges across the baroque
finery of "Scarborough Fair," the high-spirited pleas of "Cecelia,"
the brittle urgency of "A Hazy Shade of Winter" and the coiling
guitars and voices of "Mrs. Robinson."

Simon told USA Today that he and Garfunkel would not attempt "note-
for-note fidelity to the recorded arrangements."

But he also spoke of "staying true to the emotional memory" of the
music. To judge by reviews, that approach has precluded any
challenging or confounding of spectators through drastic alteration.
There is no willful ripping-up or tossing out the songbook, as Neil
Young did this year on his Greendale tour; no Dylan-style reinvention
of the standards. Like the Who's Pete Townshend and Roger Daltrey,
Simon and Garfunkel have no new vision of themselves to put forward,
and admittedly no pretense to any.

It is more than cost-of-living adjustments that motivated the two to
reunite; they love the music as much as the audience.

The South Florida Sun-Sentinel is a Tribune Publishing newspaper.

(Copyright ) 2003, The Baltimore Sun)