ROME – With the Colosseum and a swollen golden moon rising above it as a backdrop, Simon & Garfunkel (search) closed out the European leg of their Old Friends tour with hundreds of thousands of adoring fans stretched before them Saturday night.
Rome Mayor Walter Veltroni told the crowd that 600,000 people had turned out for the free concert, 100,000 more than the crowd for a free concert by Paul McCartney (news) last year in the same setting.
That might make cause some wincing for fans who paid an average of nearly US$140 a ticket for the first leg of the tour in the United States, which began last autumn.
The concertgoers in Rome (search) rocked and stamped their feet in encouragement. Many members of the audience were in their 60s and grew up with the songs of Paul Simon (news) and Art Garfunkel (news). The pair's songs were so popular their lyrics were translated into Italian and the melodies sung by Italian groups.
The crowd roared as Simon crouched low with his guitar, getting into the grove of "Mrs. Robinson," their hit song recorded for the cult movie hit "The Graduate." While he sang the song, Garfunkel toyed with the buttons of his shirt cuff.
Thousands of fans showed up hours ahead of the performance to find a decent viewing place, but some of the best seats in the house went untaken. Those were balconies and terraces of apartment buildings overlooking the Colosseum (search). Their occupants were among the hundreds of thousands of Rome's 3 million inhabitants who have fled the city these weeks for vacation.
Simon and Garfunkel grew up in a middle class neighborhood in the New York City borough of Queens. But the boyhood pals have been famously estranged over the years, splitting up bitterly in 1971.
The European tour started in Manchester, England, on July 14, and took the pair to 10 other cities before Rome. The tour also featured the Everly Brothers, who joined Simon & Garfunkel in a rendition of "Bye Bye Love."
Songs performed included many of Simon & Garfunkel's biggest hits together, including "Sound of Silence," "My Little Town," "El Condor Pasa" and "Bridge Over Troubled Water," which brought tears to the eyes of many in the audience.
In separate interviews last month with The Associated Press in New York, the two artists disagreed on whether Simon & Garfunkel have a recording future.