Bookends aka Pete Richards (Vocals) and Dan Haynes (Vocals & Guitar) made another impressive visit to The Festival Theatre Edinburgh tonight with their “Simon and Garfunkel Through the Years” show.
Pete and Dan/Bookends are one of the runaway success stories of The Edinburgh Festival Fringe over the past few years as their two man tribute to the music of Simon and Garfunkel has been regularly selling out long runs at Symposium Hall – just a little bit across from The Festival Theatre. The two shows have one basic and very simple theme – quality music and impressive vocal harmonies that only seem to come when true friends are together (Dan and Pete have known one another since their school days). Whereas the Fringe shows are Dan and Pete performing on their own, the sounds of some Simon and Garfunkel songs are expanded upon in this larger show by the addition of “Leos Strings” quartet to the line-up.
Bookends have over the years through sheer hard work and talent developed an audience base that obviously comes to hear these classic songs performed, but more importantly comes to hear Pete and Dan perform them. These two performers are to me definitely not a tribute act. There is absolutely no attempt to look like their musical heroes, no silly wigs and outfits, no on stage mimicry of the originals’ movements or speech, simply an honest from the heart tribute to words and music that they love, and as I overheard one member of the audience telling another at the interval “I can close my eyes and they sound just like the originals”.
The audience at this show is split pretty well between people old enough to have heard (and possibly seen live in concert) the originals first time round and others too young to have had that experience, but for both, there is a mixture of have to be there classics such as “Mrs Robinson”, “Scarborough Fair”, “The Boxer”, “The Sound Of Silence” and “Cecilia”, but there are also many other less well known gems in the set. Dan and Pete have far more of these songs in their repertoire than can fit into even this expanded show format, so it is always a pleasure to return to one of their shows as they are always changing the set list.
I have to admit that I am maybe a little bit different from many audience members who go to a “Simon and Garfunkel Through the Years” show as their music sort of passed me by first time round and when I was old enough to be making my own first musical buying choices, it was punk music and far removed from this genre. In fact, even the thought of playing one of their albums would have been almost unthinkable to me at that time. Of course, as you get a bit older and your musical interests expand then things change and I came to realise just how wonderfully crafted the songs of Simon and Garfunkel were, both musically and lyrically. Of course, most of the music and the bands that I was listening to back then have disappeared into musical obscurity while these wonderful songs have continued to delight original and new listeners throughout the years. Unlike so many songs of their period, there is something very different about Simon and Garfunkel songs. For some reason, they have for the most part not dated badly (as so much of the contemporary music around them has). There is an almost timeless quality about this music.
For my own tastes, so much of the studio album songs of Simon and Garfunkel are over- produced, and that has always puzzled me as these beautiful songs need nothing added to them; they were perfect in their simplest form, and that is why I keep returning to a Bookends concert as Pete and Dan have somehow distilled these songs to their live performance core essence and let the wonder of the words and music shine through, and nowhere is this more obvious than their own stripped down version of the original over-layered “Bridge Over Troubled Water”.
It was also nice this time to hear Bookends experimenting with two Paul Simon solo songs (I am not telling you which just in case you still have a show to see), and giving them the vocal harmonies re-arrangements, impressively for me proving that this show is not a tribute show, but two talented performers who just love these songs.
Where next for Bookends – well our duo are off to Germany soon with this show for a 21 date tour, and of course they will be returning to Edinburgh in August for Fringe 2018 with their two man show at Symposium Hall.
Review by Tom King