Art Garfunkel performs on stage at the Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv, on June 10, 2015..
(photo credit: GIL COHEN MAGEN / AFP)
If you’re in your 60s, you probably don’t go to live music concerts much anymore, like you once did.
Who has the koyach? But going to see Art Garfunkel last Wednesday night was a rare opportunity: he hadn’t played here in 32 years, and it was nice to see a landsman from a long-ago past.
It wasn’t so much a must-see as it was a nostalgia trip. If you were 12 years old growing up in New York, Art and his boyhood pal Paul Simon were the neighborhood stars from Forest Hills High School who made it big.
Garfunkel was the voice that was famous first, already a childhood legend at the Jewish Center of Kew Garden Hills in Queens. "They could have sold tickets to his bar mitzvah," Paul once said.
He walked onstage slowly at 9:35 p.m., wearing a large white satin kippa and singing a song in Hebrew called "Viymaleh." This was a piece that was sung at weddings in the 1940's and '50's, usually by a young boy before the procession began. There is little doubt that Garfunkel the synagogue singer did that many times, perhaps his first public performances.
He then opened with “The Boxer,” and you couldn’t help being nostalgic – his music was the quiet soundtrack of our growing up,and when he followed with “April Come She Will,” you remembered the name of the girl who went with the song.
Then Art started to talk, wanting to share with us passages from the autobiography he has contracted to write.
And so he recounted some of his life’s rich journey, personal prose bordering on poetry: musings on both of his sons, his relationship with Paul, his mortality, a performance at the Royal Albert Hall, and having a room on a high floor at the Hampshire House Hotel looking out on Central Park, king of the world at 26.
If Dylan is famous for not talking at all during a concert, Garfunkel will be remembered as one who talked almost more than he sang. Which was fine, if you wanted to hear about a man at peace with himself, mellow, grateful for what he has and proud for what he has achieved, as well he should be: a Hall of Fame career as a talented artist which included one top 10 hit, three top 20 hits, six top 40 hits, and six Grammys, according to Wikipedia.
And that’s just as a solo artist.
So all that was fine, if you wanted to hear about his personal life. If you didn’t, it came off as self-indulgent.
Indeed, his eight topics of personal philosophy and musings were read off envelopes, as if he were delivering the Gettysburg Address.
But Art the singer – ahh, that was a different story. He sang a lot of hits, 19 in all, including “April Come She Will,” “Poem on the Underground Wall,” “Scarborough Fair,” “Homeward Bound,” “Bright Eyes,” “For Emily,” “Sound of Silence,” and what he called a personal favorite, “Cathy’s Song.” This was a refined performance by a 73-year-old veteran, but alas, it was not the same.
Don’t get me wrong, the music was very good, as far as it went. But it didn’t go far as it once did, and with good reason: he only recently recovered his voice that was gone for four years, a devastating loss for someone whose identity has always been about that voice. Though he worked hard to recover what he once had – and it’s a miracle that he can sing again – it’s still thin.
But there were moments when you heard exactly what you remembered hearing all those years ago.
It happened when he brought out his son to sing with him. It is Art Jr.
now who has that golden Garfunkel voice, and when they sang a melodious duet from the Everly Brothers, it was like Art Sr. laying a dub onto the soundtrack from his own life: singing harmony that evoked the sound that made him famous.
Now you had no choice but to recognize the obvious: Paul’s absence was painfully felt.
After his encore “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” Art put back his kippa, came to the front of the stage and sang the blessing “Shehechiyanu.” 50 years later, after his long life and ours, from the streets of New York to a stadium in Jaffa, we can all give thanks for enabling us to reach this occasion.