Written by Dan Margherita
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Monday, 28 June 2004

image for Simon & Garfunkel Headline the Concert on Baghdad Island
SIMON & GARFUNKEL: THE CONCERT ON BAGHDAD ISLAND

In a surprise handover ceremony, at 10:26 a.m. (2:26 a.m. ET), Paul Bremer, calling himself the "ex-administrator" of the Coalition Provisional Authority, gave a leather-bound transfer document to Iraq's interim Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. The power transfer came two days before the June 30 deadline previously announced by the U.S.-led coalition.

Immediately following the handover, a concert was held on Baghdad Island, the equivalent of New York City's Central Park and previously closed to all Bagdadians. This is the capital's favorite refuge from the congestion of the city. It is bordered on one side by the Tigris River and on three others by a lake stocked with colored fish. Baghdad Island's flower gardens, football pitches, tennis courts, restaurants, wedding halls and observation tower once attracted droves of visitors from the capital. Simon & Garfunkel brought their "No, Really, This Is Farewell - Maybe" tour to town, with Simon rewriting one of his biggest hits just for the occasion. In an inspiring singalong on an electrifying night, the classic duo led an estimated 2 billion people in "50 Ways to Leave Iraqis."

George said it's really not our habit to intrude
Furthermore, I hope our presence won't be fought or misconstrued
But I'll repeat myself at the risk of losing crude
There must be 50 ways to leave Iraqis
Fifty ways to leave Iraqis

You just try to stall, Paul
Get set to move on, Don
Let's get goin', Colin
Just get yourself out
Hop on the plane, Wayne
Pull out in the fast lane
Saddle up the pony, Tony
And get yourself free

Some Iraqis, who didn't know the words, hummed along or played their sitars. All in all, "It was a lot of fun," said Mustaff Musffalotof. T-shirt and CD sales were brisk. The crowd was generally well behaved, although US troops had to confiscate a number of bongs and electric blowbacks before the night was over. The concert was recorded by HBO for a Ramadan sweeps presentation.

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