Gee It’s Great to Be Back Home: Bookends at Peoples Bank Theatre

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Simon and Garfunkel occupy a very specific place in the collective American pop culture consciousness.

Do you remember the first time you heard “Mrs. Robinson”?

How about the time-honored and ripened humanist hymn “Bridge Over Troubled Water”?

Or, for those more familiar with the deeper cuts of the legendary duo’s discography — how about the odd tracks off 1968’s impeccable Bookends? “Punk’s Dilemma” and “At The Zoo,” pose even more questions to the listener — sonically — than those just applicable to being a Citizen for Boysenberry Jam Fan. The album shakes and rattles with strange little sampled sounds that are enveloped by Simon’s ever-developing songwriting prowess and Garfunkel’s always-gorgeous accompaniments.

It makes sense that Dan Haynes and Pete Richards named their incredibly popular Simon and Garfunkel tribute act after what might be one of the most adventurous folk rock albums in the history of the genre. In essence, Bookends does more than simply pull out “Cecilia” and “Baby Driver” on acoustic guitar and double vocals — they emulate a very specific cultural conception of what Simon and Garfunkel were, as a performing act.

April 21 marked Bookends first performance in Marietta, OH, at the Peoples Bank Theatre. Playing to a packed house, Haynes and Richards sat in the middle of the stage, solely illuminated and in the midst of softly undulating levels of theatrical smoke. The work of Simon and Garfunkel elicits a nearly universal response from audiences, which explains why pockets of the group gathered to witness the tribute act on a chilly night in early spring would erupt in applause in response to “Homeward Bound,” “America” and “Hazy Shade of Winter.”

Again and again, it was nearly impossible for an attendee to remember that these songs are on the brink of becoming a part of the common, shared cultural vocabulary — and some of them already have. “Sound of Silence” was written by an achingly young Paul Simon, but here it is, decades later, and it feels all at once universal and of a very specific time and place. That time and place happens to be the adolescence and young adulthood of so many, and the reaction that the audience had to the cuts that Haynes and Richards pulled out demonstrates that visceral connection that so many have with those works.

Split into two sets with an intermission, Haynes and Richard played a good portion of their material with a string quartet – a type of instrumentation that isn’t truly too typical of Simon and Garfunkel but somehow very spiritually accurate.

The latter half of the evening consisted of solid, often goose bump-summoning renditions of “Bleeker Street,” “Old Friends,” as well as a few solo Simon numbers – including the ever socially captivating “Me and Julio Down By the School Yard.”

The music of Simon and Garfunkel is culturally important, culturally relevant, and, honestly, for many, hearing it just makes one feel like they’re finally back home.