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Simon & Garfunkel Conquer

Duo's comeback tour a colossal success

August 9, 2004 12:00 AM ET
On July 31st, in front of more than a half million Italian fans at the Colosseum in Rome, Simon and Garfunkel triumphantly closed their nine-month Old Friends Tour. The free show, which capped a successful twelve-city run through Europe, was the largest concert in Rome's history and a "right and fitting way to end this chapter of their career," says John Scher, the duo's co-manager.

"From my perspective, the most important thing that got accomplished was that Paul and Artie, who were friends since they were ten years old, are friends again," Scher adds. "They had a great time." Simon and Garfunkel will release a CD and DVD of the tour by year's end, but Scher won't speculate on whether the duo plans to record or tour again in the future.

The tour's first leg, last fall, was one of the year's most anticipated rock events, selling out twelve of its first fourteen U.S. dates and grossing $2.3 million per city, according to the concert-industry trade magazine Pollstar. By contrast, each of the nineteen U.S. stops on the second leg grossed less than half that -- about $1 million. That's partly due to more intimate venues, but industry experts also say big-city ticket prices -- around $100 on average, behind only Madonna, Celine Dion, Elton John and the Eagles -- didn't fly when the duo made its way to smaller markets such as Fresno, California, and Houston.

"It took us somewhat by surprise," Scher says. "In my view, the bottom fell out of the concert industry. Simon and Garfunkel suffered to some degree from this terrible atmosphere surrounding concerts in America." Indeed, the industry has been reeling -- with Lollapalooza canceled, Norah Jones downsized from arenas to theaters and tickets reduced at many poor-selling amphitheaters to as low as ten dollars.

European tours haven't taken as bad an economic hit. Simon and Garfunkel's trip through Europe, while not a sellout in every city, was more successful than the duo's sluggish U.S. stint in early 2004.

In Rome, managers and agents anticipated perhaps 300,000 fans for the pair's first local performance in twenty-two years. That the crowd would be so much larger didn't dawn on promoters until just before the show, which included touchstones such as "The Sounds of Silence," "Mrs. Robinson" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water." "It's an awful lot of people," says Barry Dickins, Simon's London agent. "And to end the European tour playing for 600,000 at the Colosseum is much better than playing some arena in Stuttgart that no one's ever heard of."

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