On Sept. 19, 1981, more than half a million people crammed onto the Great Lawn of New York City’s Central Park for a one-off Simon & Garfunkel reunion concert. “The Concert in Central Park,” which was released as a double album and broadcast on HBO in 1982, holds up remarkably well almost 34 years after the fact.
The folks at Columbia Legacy have put together a “deluxe edition” of the event, featuring a remastered CD and a DVD of the groundbreaking performance. Paul Simon and Art Garfunkel put together a 20-song set (19 on the CD) that included their greatest hits as well as selection’s from both their solo catalogs. Accompanied by an 11-piece band, many of the tunes benefit from expanded arrangements.
All the essential Simon & Garfunkel tunes are here — “Mrs. Robinson,” “Homeward Bound,” “America,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” “The Boxer,” “The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin’ Groovy),” “The Sound of Silence” — as are killer performances of Simon hits “Me and Julio Down By the Schoolyard,” “Still Crazy After All These Years,” “Late in the Evening,” “Slip Slidin’ Away” and “Fifty Ways to Leave Your Lover.” Garfunkel shines brightest on his own hit “A Heart in New York.”
Many outside of New York forget that Central Park was in desperate need of renovations in the early 1980s. City officials decided to host the free Simon & Garfunkel concert to raise awareness of and money for the Central Park Conservancy. The success of the show spurred donations and helped restore the Big Apple landmark to its current state. Concerts continue to be held on the Great Lawn, but for my money none will ever top the first one. (Jeffrey Sisk)