How do we judge live music? Is it about precision and technical skills? Is it about the production, lights, sound, and special effects? About showmanship? Well yesterday’s Art Garfunkel: In Close Up at the Pantages was about emotion and nostalgia.
As the rock stars baby boomers and Gen-X grew up with reach a certain age they are faced with a choice. Stop performing, squeeze their changed bodies into tight spandex and try to relive their glory days, or embrace their maturity. The latter have played some of the most entertaining shows that I have seen, and I am happy to report that Art Garfunkel is among them. We covered Paul Simon last summer and where Simon brought a whole band, Garfunkel went small with just acoustic guitarist Tab Laven and keyboard player Dave MacKay supporting him. The evening focused on songs, poems (his book is scheduled to be published next fall) and stories. Garfunkel delivered all of them with grace, charm and an air of vulnerability that made the evening special.
No pictures were allowed during the show. They actually asked us to turn our phones off, yes OFF! And that was respected by 99.99 % of the audience making it the first show I had seen in a long time without any raised phone screens (until the encore)
The set had a mix of Garfunkel’s original songs, Simon & Garfunkel collaborations and a Randy Newman cover. The poems drew on his personal life and were witty and interesting. He wrote about his young son’s obsession with a 3 foot globe. About starting up in the music business “I was new to fame and room service” and used to them as lead ins for songs. About his father “Your beautiful musical soul is the author of mine”. Dressed in a rumpled white shirt, wide open tie, and black vest he seemed to have a great time on stage. He often went off script, giving us a glimpse into a career that spans over half a century starting with him singing at Temple as a 10 year old.
After losing his voice in 2010 his road to vocal recovery had many key moments he shared with the audience. “Trust the Love”, he encouraged them. And while his voice certainly has changed and does not have the clean high notes of his youth it had a quality that worked quite well. I thought about ways to describe it but Jon Bream in his review in the Star Tribune put it perfectly: “It’s still pretty, like a whispering angel.” My wife (who is qualified to comment, which I am not) was impressed by his ability to stay on pitch and the control of age induce vibrato in his voice.
To many in the crowd there was a strong personal connection to the music. For myself, the key song was “Bright Eyes”. It brought up feelings of Unrequited love from my days as a 13 year old. After being put firmly into the friend zone I listened to our song (that my love interest did not know was ours) 30-40 times in the dark before setting the vinyl record on fire and tossing it Frisbee style. All that came back during that song. But if you thought, you saw a 6’2 Germanic guy in the audience with tears in his eyes, nope that was definitely not me.
Overall I loved the evening I got to spend with Art. I cannot think of a better way to celebrate the 50+ years of his music. And fittingly, he tucked in the audience with an encore of “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep”.
Photo Courtesy of ArtGarfunkel.com
April Come She Will (Paul Simon cover)
The Boxer (Simon & Garfunkel song)
A Heart in New York / All I Know
A Poem on the Underground Wall (Simon & Garfunkel song)
Scarborough Fair (Simon & Garfunkel song)
The Side of a Hill (Paul Simon cover)
Homeward Bound (Simon & Garfunkel song)
Real Emotional Girl (Randy Newman cover)
For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her (Simon & Garfunkel song)
Bright Eyes (Mike Batt cover)
The Sound of Silence (Simon & Garfunkel song)
Kathy’s Song (Paul Simon cover)
Bridge Over Troubled Water (Simon & Garfunkel song)
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep (traditional cover)