We have been watching a Spanish series on Netflix: Vivir sin permiso. It’s set in Galicia. We keep watching out for landmarks we might recognise but so far we have only spotted the Hercules Tower, the ancient lighthouse in La Coruña, and possibly the interior of the aquarium in that fair city. One ría, and there are a lot of them in Galicia, looks much like another. The series tells the story of Nemo Bandeira, a drug lord cum respectable businessman, who has been diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. Like all good mafiosi, and he definitely has much of the mafioso about him, he is ruthless in business and in his protection of the people he loves (even if his love involves a lot of possession). So he wants to put his house in order before he loses control of his mind. Imagine the confusion of being ruthless and not remembering exactly what you have done today! I could almost feel sorry for him … but not quite.
Anyway, we’ve been watching an episode a night. Last night, being Saturday, we got to the end of the episode and Phil was expecting to move on to Match of the Day … dum, dum, de, dum, de, dum, dum! But there was no Match of the Day, for some odd reason. Was no football played yesterday? However, as luck would have it, we noticed that on BBC 2 they were transmitting a Simon and Garfunkle concert from 1981. So we sat and watched that instead … probably a much better option.
The concert took place in Central Park in New York. The park was then in a poor state of repair and this was a free concert, the aim being to use proceeds from merchandising and so on to boost funds for regeneration. (Paul Simon joked that he wanted to thank the sellers of joints who were giving 50% of their proceeds to the fund as well.) Theirs was not the first of such concerts. Apparently Elton John and James Taylor had successfully made their contribution already. I don’t know how many turned up for those two concerts - quite a few I would imagine - but Simon and Garfunkle attracted an audience of 500,000. Art Garfunkle looked out over the crowd and commented that he had expected quite a lot of people but that it seemed as though they had filled the park. So many people!
So we sat up until way past my usual bedtime, having a serendipitous trip down memory lane. There’s something special about concerts in outdoor venues, even on the television, watching the sky gradually fade into darkness as the music goes on. I have read since that it rained in the morning of that September 1981 day but stopped about an hour before the concert. The rain didn’t stop fans from turning up first thing in the morning to ensure a good place near the stage. This was before the age of huge screens at venues allowing those at the back to see what was going on onstage. Back then the folk at the back would have seen little dots on a distant stage but they would no doubt still feel the magic.
And I got nostalgic about the open air concerts I’ve seen. There was Bruce Springsteen at Trafford Park more years ago than I care to think about, and in 2009 in the Monte do Gozo just outside Santiago de Compostela. The latter was a much more “outdoors” venue than the former, a kind of basin-shaped hollow in the hillside. Four of us stood, and sometimes sat, on the hillside looking down on The Boss. In the same year we saw Leonard Cohen in Castrelos Park in Vigo, not quite as magical as when we first saw him in the Manchester Opera House, but made amazing by its setting, and by the fabulous Webb sisters doing cartwheels on the stage.
In more recent years I’ve watched the sun go down on Tom Petty and the Heartbreakers in Hyde Park in London. Dancing barefoot in the park to “You’re so bad” on a glorious July evening with my son, his wife and some of their friends. A couple of years later my Spanish sister came over to join us as we had another glorious July evening in the same place. We arrived to hear Bonnie Raitt belting out “Make me an angel that flies from Montgomery”. But my sister had mainly come to see James Taylor, who didn’t disappoint, and we finished off with Paul Simon again.
I shouldn’t miss out Carly Simon at Martha’s Vineyard in 1987. I wasn’t there but I’ve got the DVD and it almost feels as though I was sitting in the harbour there.
As the Simon and Garfunkle concert in Central Park finished with an encore, “It was late in the evening”, singing about the music seeping up through the floor, I reflected on appropriate final songs. Probably the best was Leonard Cohen’s “It’s closing time”!
And of course those concerts don’t finish with the closing song. The crowds have to make their way out and homewards. After we saw Springsteen in Trafford Park I remember we were so euphoric we almost forgot where the car was parked. After the Monte do Gozo concert, despite the chaos of disorganised buses back to the city, we happily tucked onto chorizo, egg and chips and a beer at four in the morning, speculating that we might run into the E Street band site-seeing later in the day - of course we didn’t see them.
We stopped for beer as well on our way back from the Leonard Cohen concert in Castrelos Park. Even the friend who had come to stay, someone with arthritic feet, was happy to walk from the park to Gran Via where stopped halfway along for refreshments before continuing to our city centre flat.
After the concerts in Hyde Park it’s a good job we were on a musical high as we had to tramp across what felt like half of London to get to the tube stop to take us back to my son’s place.
So it’s odd when you watch a concert on TV. You just sort of pack and go to bed. And set the alarm a little later than usual. But that’s how it goes.
Life goes on. Stay safe and well, everyone!