Despite Art Garfunkel’s recent problems with vocal-cord weakness, expectations were high regarding his performance on Saturday, July 5, at Fantasy Springs. After all, he’s a legendary and highly influential artist with a career that spans more than a half-century.
Those expectations were more than fulfilled: The man who was half of Simon and Garfunkel brought the down the house and filled the room (which had a surprisingly small audience) with great music.
When he took the stage, he held up a poster promoting the show—featuring a photo taken of him many years ago—and said, “You probably expected this guy to show up.” Garfunkel no longer has the red Afro-like hairstyle for which he was previously known, and he now looks many years older and wiser.
Backed by an acoustic guitarist, Garfunkel read a poem he wrote before going into the first song. This became the norm throughout. The stories and poems were often sentimental, dealing with his travels, his life and his musical partnership with Paul Simon.
One story, about his time on the Carnal Knowledge set with Jack Nicholson, had the audience in laughter. He talked about watching Nicholson do take after take after take; he asked Nicholson how he could do it. Nicholson replied: “Artie, I love to act.” However, the story wasn’t all humor: The poem he wrote about the experience mentioned Nicholson’s outbursts and angry streak.
After he played “Scarborough Fair,” from Simon and Garfunkel’s Parsley, Sage, Rosemary and Thyme, from 1966, he said he requested that the song be recorded in a more genuine fashion, and without the typical recording effects that were around in the 1960s. He also played a track that was left off of the album for various reasons and warned the audience before starting: “This is an anti-war song.”
His hour-long set featured songs from both his solo career and from Simon and Garfunkel. He discussed how vocal-cord paresis for a while took away his ability to sing like he used to, and said he had to rediscover his sound and then find the bravery to perform in front of live audiences again. The best performances of the night included the title track from his Breakaway album (1975), and “Bright Eyes” from the Watership Down soundtrack (1978).
On the subject of his relationship with Paul Simon, he said everyone should forget what they’ve read, because the two men have a close friendship, despite disagreements and turbulent times. He even went so far as to list Paul Simon as one of his favorite songwriters, along with Stephen Sondheim, James Taylor and Randy Newman.
Before playing “Sound of Silence,” he said he remembered the day when Paul Simon called him to his apartment in Greenwich Village—when they were both still poor, and Garfunkel was still studying at Columbia University. Simon explained to Garfunkel on that fateful day that he had written his best song.
Garfunkel closed out the show with a version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” which he said was a work in progress, given it was being performed with only one guitar, no piano and no additional backing musicians. It was a condensed version of the song—but it was beautiful and earned Garfunkel a warm and genuine ovation from the audience.
Photos by Kevin Fitzgerald.