If at this late date in human history, you need any more proof in the viability of existentialism as a philosophy, dig these antithetical assessments of Art Garfunkel’s current tour from the Ticketmaster site:
Show was amazing!! Art has a voice that radiates energy & music into an outstanding performance! He is also a truly humble artist who is attentive to the audience & performs for everyone’s enjoyment, including his own. Truly a masterpiece in the music world.
Art’s voice is shot. I liked hearing the old songs, but Art could not reach the high notes. Spent way too much time on poems. concert was just over an hour, did not feel I got my money’s worth.
What a HUGE dissappointment (sic). I can’t believe that his promoters/family would actually allow him to tour and charge to hear him try to sing. It felt like I was at a BAD Karoke (sic) show. It was like to going to see Baryshnikov or a famous dancer at one time, hobble all over the stage. I saw Donovon (sic), James Taylor, and Melanie within the last few years and they sounded wonderful. I would not recommend this show to anyone.
Last night I caught the Charleston incarnation of the tour at the Circular Congregational Church. Billed as an intimate evening with Art Garfunkel, the show featured Mr. Garfunkel reading prose poems, singing songs accompanied by guitarist Tab Laven, reminiscing, and answering questions from audience members. And intimate it was. As I made my way to my second row pew, I snapped this photo of the set list which was lying on the sound board at the back of the sanctuary.
In the first prose poem, which he read from the back of an envelope, Garfunkel acknowledged his vocal problems and intimated anxiety about the quality of his performance. Three years ago Mr. Garfunkel had to cancel a series of concert dates with Paul Simon and has recently undergone surgery to remedy vocal chord paresis. This clever stratagem of acknowledging his medical problem established the concert as a work-in-progress, what he later called a “workshop performance.”
Even without the paresis, given that he’s 73, you would expect some diminishment of Mr. Garfunkel’s vocal range (dig Billie Holliday at 44 in her last recordings). However, I can attest that Garfunkel’s voice is not “shot.” True, it might be described as a bit “reedy,” and it lacks the angelic resonance it possessed when he sang with Simon; however, he did hit the high notes and to see him physically struggle to do so and to hear him succeed were uplifting (pun unintended). The songs were beautiful.
(If the second reviewer above thinks Garfunkel’s voice is shot, he dare not go to a Dylan concert).
Perhaps heroic is too strong a word, but the performance was brave, and throughout he projected a demeanor of humility and good humor. For example, as he read from his prose poems, he’d mockingly pull out an invisible pencil and pretend he were editing some phrase. The show, especially the vocals, brought to mind Dylan Thomas’s admonition to “rage, rage against the dying of the light.” Interestingly, in one of his poems, Mr. Garfunkel echoed a phrase from Thomas’s “My Craft and Sullen Art” but misidentified it as a line from Yeats, which is appropriate in its own way, given Yeats’ struggle in old age with the “dying of the light.”
An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hands and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress . . .
Mr. Garfunkel’s vocal cards may be a bit tattered, but let me assure you, his soul is in fine fettle, and for me the performance was worth every penny.