Art Garfunkel | 01.22.17

He suggested James Taylor might have been a good choice to run for President, given all of the love and goodwill he generates from fans.

Sheldon Concert Hall, St. Louis

His back may have a bit more curve, and the trademark fro he sported on the cover of Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme may have gone the way of the eight-track, but make no mistake: Art Garfunkel can still sing like the rock ’n’ roll angel who charmed teenagers as one-half of Tom and Jerry; the act that later became the more well-known Simon & Garfunkel.

The concert, benefitting Sheldon Educational Programs, featured the 75-year-old singer performing an intimate concert of his most popular songs, interspersed with poems from his upcoming memoir, to be published later this year by Alfred A. Knopf.

Joined by guitarist Tab Laven and pianist Dave MacKay, the Sheldon Concert Hall performance was a masterclass in low-key dynamics and storytelling, emphasizing the voice that helped define a generation. “Let’s get to work,” he said before launching into “April Come She Will” from Simon & Garfunkel’s 1966 album Sounds of Silence.

Though most of the songs in the set were written by longtime musical partner Paul Simon, it was revelatory hearing Garfunkel perform them without Simon’s voice. In classics like “The Boxer” and “Poem on the Underground Wall,” the singer’s tenor constantly discovered melodic nuances, putting a fresh coat of paint on songs that have become such a treasured part of music history.

Speaking of Simon, Garfunkel was incredibly gracious about his old grade-school friend, including him in his list of favorite songwriters along with Randy Newman, and James Taylor; the latter of whom he suggested might have been a good choice to run for President, given all of the love and goodwill he generates from fans.

Perhaps the evening’s best example of redefining a song was the new, abbreviated arrangement given to “Bridge over Troubled Water.” Though Garfunkel made no attempt to reach the emotional heights of the original recording, he infused the new version with a more grounded immediacy, better suited to reflect the uncertainty of our current social and political climate.

In between the songs, Garfunkel read poems covering a cross section of his storied life. The subjects ranged from his son, Beau, and a glowing toy globe, confronting a government official texting in the front row of a performance, and the vocal cord issues he began experiencing in 2010.

One of the poems examined the longtime friendship he shares with his Carnal Knowledge co-star, Jack Nicholson. He related a story about Nicholson on the set, where Mike Nichols had the actor repeat an intensely passionate scene for take upon grueling take. After Garfunkel and Nicholson went back to the home they shared during shooting, Garfunkel asked how he could keep doing the scene so many times at such a high emotional pitch. Nicholson replied, “I love to act.”

Garfunkel peered over his spectacles, smiled, and said, “I love to sing.” | Jim Ousley

Set One:

April Come She Will
The Boxer
Real Emotional Girl
A Heart in New York/All I Know
A Poem on the Underground Wall
Scarborough Fair
The Side of a Hill
Homeward Bound

Set Two

Perfect Moment
For Emily, Wherever I May Find Her
Bright Eyes
The Sound of Silence
Kathy’s Song
Bridge Over Troubled Water
Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep

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