On July 15th, Paul Simon will play a massive gig in London’s Hyde Park billed as Homeward Bound: The Farewell Performance. It’s unclear at the moment if he intends for this to be the final gig he ever plays, the last time he plays in London or simply the beginning of a farewell tour. It is consistent with statements he made to the New York Times in 2016 about his desire to pack it up. “Showbiz doesn’t hold any interest for me,” he said. “None…It’s an act of courage to let go.”
The words might have had more weight had he not expressed that same sentiment many times in the past. Nearly two decades earlier – while promoting his Broadway musical The Capeman – he told the New York Times that he was “absolutely” done with performing live. “I think of [The Capeman] not as a new chapter, but as a kind of summation,” he said. “I’m thinking of this show as a very big ending.” He hit the road with Bob Dylan less than two years later for a long co-headlining tour.
Before The Capeman took up three years of his life, Simon played what were essentially farewell gigs at New York’s Paramount Theater in late 1993. He called them A Concert of a Lifetime and originally planned on doing just 10 of them, but high demand eventually led to 21 shows. The biggest draw of the night was his first reunion with Art Garfunkel for the first time in a decade. Their relationship hit one of many lows in 1991 when he played a huge Central Park show without him. “I’m not good enough to be invited,” Garfunkel groused. “My guess is that it would hurt his sense of stature.”
An invitation to join him for the first segment and the encores of the Paramount shows was enough to patch things up. Simon envisioned A Concert of a Lifetime as journey through his whole career, from his teenage pop collaboration with Garfunkel “Hey Schoolgirl” to his 1970 solo hits and his comeback albums Graceland and Rhythm of the Saints. There’s no video beyond some shaky camcorder footage of a few songs, but here’s a recording of an entire show from October 8th, 1993. He’s joined by Phoebe Snow for “Gone At Last,” the gospel group Mighty Clouds of Joy” for “Loves Me Like a Rock” and Ladysmith Black Mambazo for a set of Graceland songs. It wraps up with a moving rendition of “Old Friends” with Garfunkel.
Whatever he has planned for this London show, don’t expect to see Art Garfunkel on the stage. They are no longer on speaking terms for reasons they refuse to discuss. “There are things that are personal and deep between us,” Garfunkel told Rolling Stone in November, “instead of the Internet, your readers.” He went on to say that he was “not particularly” hopefully they’d ever sing together again. Of course, they’ve both said things like that many times before, often right before reuniting. And if anything will thaw out the friendship yet again, it’s a true farewell tour. We’ll see what happens.