Simon and Garfunkel played only their second UK concert in more than 20 years to 50,000 fans at London's Hyde Park on Thursday.
By Chris Heard
BBC News Online entertainment staff
Few acts can rival Simon and Garfunkel's famous catalogue of hits in capturing the elusive spirit of mid-1960s America.
The duo were playing in the UK for the first time since 1982
Nearly 40 years after their heyday, there is little in pop and rock music as evocative of a time, a place and the mood of an era.
Framed somewhere between Kennedy's death and the march of Vietnam, Simon's songs and Garfunkel's angelic voice distilled the end-of-innocence transition from folky optimism to poignant reflection.
The duo's harmonies seem forever destined to form the soundtrack for grainy footage of civil rights marches and stripey-scarved students at campus sit-ins.
But these are truly classic songs which have not only survived but aged well, sounding fresh and invigorated when replicated live - 50 years after the pair, now both 63, met and forged their friendship.
Heralding their arrival on stage, a series of video images on a giant screen replays iconic moments in culture - from the moon landings and a disco floor to the Berlin Wall's collapse and the Millennium celebrations.
They are expected to make £30m from this world tour
Interspersed with mischievous shots of the pair's changing hairlines and dodgy fashion choices, the message seems to be: 'Not only have we witnessed and survived all this, we're intact and as vital as ever'. And so it would prove.
The sight of them physically side by side is an instantly recognisable delight, one much loved by the caricaturists: Garfunkel, tall and serene, the lion's mane of hair still framing his studied features. Simon, diminutive and fluid, rocking with his acoustic guitar.
"Here's a song about my country, and a time and place that no longer exists," says Garfunkel introducing America, Simon's mythical journey into the soul of a nation that symbolised a generation's idealism.
While unashamedly nostalgic and bordering on the sentimental, there is also a playful undertone, with both parties - noted for their fall-outs over the years - drawing on the irony of the tour's Old Friends title.
"This is now the 50th anniversary of the friendship that I hold very close to me," says Garfunkel, before Simon counters: "Fourteen years old we started to argue. That makes this the 48th anniversary (of us arguing)."
Introducing musical heroes The Everly Brothers, the four run through a celebratory Bye Bye Love with an energy that belies a combined age pushing 250.
The show - part of a tour which will reputedly make the duo £30m - is also an upbeat affair, with electric guitars, piano and occasional strings joining their more pastoral moments.
An enthusiastic crowd cheerily greets gem after gem: The Sound of Silence, I Am A Rock, Homeward Bound, Keep The Customer Satisfied, Kathy's Song, Hazy Shade Of Winter, Scarborough Fair, The Boxer, Mrs Robinson...
Will Young, Zoe Ball and Little Britain's Matt Lucas are among the revellers at Hyde Park on a still midsummer's night for what will probably be the last UK approximation of the duo's legendary New York Central Park concert.
The set ends with the hymnal Bridge Over Troubled Water, and 50,000 people are rapt.