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Paul Simon & Sting's Madison Square Garden setlist, surprises

Sting and Paul Simon perform together at Madison

Sting and Paul Simon perform together at Madison Square Garden on March 4, 2014. (Credit: Bruce Gilbert)

Paul Simon and Sting’s “On Stage Together” tour has been a head-scratcher since it was announced.

Wasn’t Simon’s music part of what the punks and new wavers led by Sting and The Police rebelling against in the late ‘70s? Well, after seeing them together for two hours and 40 minutes Tuesday night at Madison Square Garden, it all becomes a little clearer.

Simon and Sting like each other and they respect each other’s work and musicianship. And, considering their more, um, contentious feelings for their usual on-again, off-again collaborators, this new coupling -- odd as it may seem -- is energizing.

“Welcome to our little experiment,” Simon says early on, saying that they planned to combine their disparate efforts “in a way that’s actually pretty good.”

Why, yes it is! Given both of their storied careers, that shouldn’t be a surprise. But it is.

These guys clearly like the challenge of working with other people, especially when a great 14-piece backing band helps make whatever musical idea they may have effortlessly come to life.  

Simon gives Sting a run for his money on “Fragile,” adding a vulnerability to his delivery that the lanky leading man Sting simply doesn’t have in his arsenal. On Simon and Garfunkel’s “America,” Sting adds some grit and danger to the original’s gorgeous ache.

It actually feels special to hear Sting, ever a dominating front man throughout his career, to sing harmony to Simon’s lead vocals, especially when they take on the Everly Brothers’ “When Will I Be Loved” on acoustic guitars, singing into one microphone.

When Sting hits the big note in “Bridge Over Troubled Water” – though, honestly, it’s not the same high note that Art Garfunkel would hit – Simon applauds from just outside the spotlight.

That’s when “On Stage Together” makes the most sense. Mutual admiration and support is an underrated asset in any band. It’s great to see Simon and Sting have found it again.

(They return to Madison Square Garden again Thursday.)

 

SETLIST: [PAUL SIMON AND STING] Brand New Day / The Boy In the Bubble / Fields of Gold // [STING] Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic / Englishman In New York / I Hung My Head / Driven To Tears / Walking On The Moon // [SIMON AND STING] Mother and Child Reunion // [SIMON] 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover / Dazzling Blue / Graceland / Still Crazy After All These Years / Me and Julio Down By The Schoolyard // [SIMON AND STING] Fragile // [STING] America / Message In A Bottle / The Hounds of Winter / They Dance Alone / Roxanne / Desert Rose // [SIMON AND STING] The Boxer // [SIMON] That Was Your Mother / Hearts and Bones/Mystery Train/Wheels / The Obvious Child / Diamonds On The Soles of Her Shoes / You Can Call Me Al // ENCORE: [SIMON AND STING] Bridge Over Troubled Water / Every Breath You Take / Late In The Evening / When Will I Be Loved?

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