SINCE this performance was billed as “an intimate evening with Art Garfunkel”, our gentle host deemed it appropriate to acknowledge that, yes, he has lost a lot of his trademark thatch since we were last in his company.
Glasgow Royal Concert Hall
But that is not all that he lost. Four years ago Garfunkel suffered paralysis in his vocal cords and had to give up singing for a time in order to rest and ultimately recover his most precious asset.
If his old cohort Paul Simon is commonly regarded as the writing half of their on-off partnership, then Garfunkel is rightly characterised as The Voice and, though he did not milk the hardship, it was easy to empathise with his pain at losing the ability, even temporarily, to express such purity of emotion.
When he did open his mouth to sing – offstage to begin with – you could almost feel the room break into a beatific smile, as if swaddled in a comfort blanket.
Yet he was clearly still on the road to recovery, shaky at points as if struggling for the breath to sustain the notes and admitting to the stage fright that comes with a loss of confidence.
But Garfunkel should take heart in that golden tone, beseeching and beautiful as it remains. The audience was rooting for him the whole way.
One consequence of the enforced voice rest is that his solo show is now a carefully balanced blend of singing and spoken word, musical gems from throughout his back catalogue interspersed with sing-song readings.
These spoken pieces are a series of knowing, humorous and tender prose poems which were literally written on the backs of envelopes, calmly encompassing whimsical observations on family life, evocations of his native New York, quietly witty musings on “the dark ages” of the analogue era, recollections of working with Jack Nicholson or ruminations on his relationship with Simon – “a man who has tremendously enriched my life”.
But it was the singing, however fragile, that hit the spot, particularly his wistful version of Albert Hammond’s 99 Miles From LA, the plaintive perfection of Bright Eyes, spine-tingling For Emily, blushing romance of Kathy’s Song and the haunting Sound Of Silence, all sensitively accompanied by the hugely talented Tab Laven, picking away with gorgeous fluidity on acoustic guitar.
Together, they felt their way through a work-in-progress arrangement of Bridge Over Troubled Water – an abridged Bridge – which was a living embodiment of the song’s message of compassionate succour.
Seen on 08.09.14