By Narcissa Lyons
Here is my first musical performance review so forgive any mishaps if that even applies given it’s all opinion anyway. I will be attending more concerts–maybe not as many as I did in my teens and twenties, but I need to get back out in that world. There is a lot of good music right now, a lot of young, scratchy bands and the live show has always been and will always be where it’s at. Having said that, my first review covers an artist from the long long ago. He may still write music, and I know he is coming out with a book in September because he kept telling us as much, but he is a musical icon—I give you none other than Art Garfunkel, one half of the world famous, and world loved Simon & Garfunkel. Their list of contributions over the 60s, 70s and 80s is immense, breathtaking, made so many people happy, singing and dancing for so long, and still it carries on. Since this is a review about the recent performance of only half that reverie, I’ll not go into detail about the cataclysmic Concert in Central Park show I was lucky enough to attend, but it was well worth skipping school, hopping on the train and carousing with 500,000 other people. Not to mention it marked the beginning of this listener’s love affair with the duo’s music.
I don’t have a lot of solo Art Garfunkel albums. Actually only one, Angel Clare, but his voice just shatters me, solo or with Simon–so resonant and pure, with a low hypnotic timbre that sends you. My assumption the night we visited The Cabot Theatre in Beverly, MA on May 19th was he’d play mostly Simon and Garfunkel pieces, but we got to hear a nice mixture. When we got to hear him sing, that is.
I’m a little bitter. Which is stupid, since I knew going into it that the man is 75. The show was dubbed as “An Evening with Art Garfunkel” so to be fair, that ended up being accurate. We were with him from the beginning at 8 to the precise ending at 10, and he with us, so the incorrect assumption on our part was that he would be singing most of that duration. He sang some of the classics, some of them even from beginning to end, and they were beautiful, moved all of us, closed our eyes and sang along when you’d expect. But he also read an inordinate amount of poetry from his upcoming book. Is he a bad poet? No. Is he a good poet? Sometimes. But about 40% of the show was comprised of reading that poetry between songs, or providing somewhat amusing anecdotes about his life, bragging about who he knows (like I give a shit he hangs around with Jack Nicolson or Ann Margaret), and more than a few times patting himself on the back—or should I say throat—about how it has been essential to the world of music he contributed his voice. He is right but gimme a break. “When you have a bird in your throat you have to sing for others, the world”.
Initially I was baffled by the inclusion of this type of performance, but then I realized and told my husband at intermission that he was doing it all to rest his voice. He couldn’t sing for two hours straight so rested and used other filler. Patter. I get that, but I didn’t like it. I did not attend the show to feel somewhat sorry for a musical legend with fading vocal chords while he occasionally sang well (and apologized/admitted he would not be able to hit the climactic notes at the end of Bridge Over Troubled Water).
And it also ended my theory up until then that Paul Simon’s ego is what has addled their relationship since many a year ago. Mr. Garfunkel is no shrinking violet either. That may be evident having read the previous paragraphs, but the show lent clarity to a long held and obviously undeserved position on my part. Sorry Mr. Simon. Don’t get me wrong. The Sound of Silence alone contributed life-defining moments to many the world over. What they have together given our world of music is unstoppably large and brilliantly genius (redundant in any other case but this), but that kind of talent is often not free, and in their case the cost was jealousy, peevishness and likely missed musical creations (real horror, that).
The show started out well. Art G. is a funny guy when he leaves out all the self praise. He opened with a stunning and perfect “April She Will Come”,” but I got a foreboding of the rest of the show with the next piece. The only song I HAD to hear, was praying in advance he would play and chances were good since it is a fairly well known song of his, was “All I Know”. The notes for the opening of that lovely tune were what immediately followed the first song, crystal and sweetly flowing from the piano, and I looked over at my husband with that half-crazed happy look you get when something is going smashingly right. “This is it! YAY!” is what that expression urgently conveyed. But the music was never joined by Garfunkel’s voice. With growing dread I listened to the exceptionally long piano intro to the song, instinctively aware of the robbery that was taking place. What naught! What blasphemy! To be cast to the top of joy and just as callously flung to the pit of dismay! One big Phooey and you can possibly understand how the rest of the show was cast in shadow while I got over that frowning disappointment.
Would I still have gone had I known the outcome? No matter what, the answer is absolutely yes. The deep talent and still resonant voice of the man was worth the moderate torture. The audience, more tolerant and amused than I during the speechifying, was reverent during the music, and so was I. Of particular note other than what I have listed, was his “99 Miles From LA”, a piece I had not heard and promptly downloaded—breathtaking in delivery, and haunting as it crescendo-ed. For Emily Wherever I May Find Her”, a song that makes one’s eyes glisten, impacted that much more emotionally live. I was thankful for that moment and even also for his touching “Now I lay me down to sleep” closing song. By ten O’clock I had lost the miffed feeling from a few hours earlier, and was glad I had gotten to know Art Garfunkel a little more personally, glad I got to see him in this venue and reminisce about excellent things in life to the lilt of his voice. And no matter what, he loves to sing, entertain, create, and he strives to keep re-capturing the millions of hearts already won.