'I'd Say, Now, Who Do, Who Do You Think You're Fooling?'

Saturday, June 2, 2007

My husband gave me the birthday gift of a lifetime -- tickets for the May 23 concert to honor Paul Simon, the first recipient of the Library of Congress Gershwin Prize for Popular Song. What a celebration! Legendary musicians spanning musical genres from reggae to bluegrass and even classical gathered in tribute to Simon and showcased his wide range of music. It was a more than memorable occasion.

So I was surprised and then annoyed when I read J. Freedom du Lac's review ["He Is a Rock; Technical Glitches Mar Paul Simon Tribute but Can't Mask His Genius," Style, May 25]. Why start the review with what was wrong rather than the totality of the evening, which was so very right?

Yes, there were glitches with the sound system, but they did not detract from the beauty and purity of Simon's work or the stellar performances of the likes of James Taylor, Ladysmith Black Mambazo or Stevie Wonder.

Yes, the rendition of "Graceland" was different -- du Lac described it as "stripped" of the "original's effervescent groove" -- but I would not call it "dour." Was du Lac on a break when the film clip showed the various ways "Bridge Over Troubled Water" has been performed? Isn't that one of the hallmarks of Simon's work, that various performers interpret it their way?

Perhaps du Lac was more interested in gauging Washingtonians' deficiencies in being "incapable of proper rhythmic clapping" or has been engaged in journalism here just long enough to think that reviews must lead off with negativity. The fact that the concert lasted an extra half an hour for "re-dos and such," including two encores by Simon, seemed to annoy him. The audience seemed to relish it.

-- Becky L. Schergens

Arlington

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Regarding the review of the Paul Simon tribute:

Art Garfunkel, age 65, showed up to honor a friend receiving an award, and reviewer J. Freedom du Lac trashed him repeatedly for no longer having the voice he did when he was 30. Garfunkel wasn't there to make money, you understand, just to show respect to his former partner, Paul Simon.

On the other hand, a no-talent egomaniac with no voice doing the same tired posing as 100 other rock stars got off virtually untouched ["Daughtry Pumps Up the Volume," Style, May 26]. When Chris Daughtry can do in his prime half of what Art Garfunkel could do, let me know, not that anyone will remember his sorry self 35 years from now as they do Garfunkel 35 years beyond his heyday.

-- Thomas Shaffer

White Plains

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