More than 50 years after recording “Scarborough Fair,” Art Garfunkel delivered the song Friday night at Troy Music Hall with the same immaculate voice and tone as he did on the record. At 79, the song seems to move in and out of him as easy as his breathing.
The song, like the show, didn’t rise or fall — and didn’t really have a beginning, middle, or end — but flowed gently and steadily through the two 40-minute sets.
He gave us several hits — like “Kathy’s Song” — where you could hear a pin drop between lyrics. But we could have used a few more big ones. Accompanied by an acoustic guitar and keyboards, Garfunkel sat on a stool or stood, singing directly to his audience, offering a fair amount of stories, and reading short poems from his latest poetry book.
“I’ve had a great life entertaining you all,” he said when he first came out. He next told us he was nervous, something he still felt after all these years of performing, but it was hard to believe given the ease and comfort he projected.
He played every song stripped down and straight up — no tricks — which exposed a few new components of the larger tunes, angles lost in the recordings, as in “Homeward Bound,” and “The Boxer.” Garfunkel’s voice soared without rising in volume, and there were times you wished the accompanying musicians faded out and let him carry the tune alone on stage with his sweet, unmistakable voice.
“Today I met my publicist,” he read from his book. “He wants me to tweet.” He peppered the show with lines like this, taking pride in presenting himself as one defiantly out of touch. He spent a few moments unnecessarily name-dropping, mentioning stars from his acting experiences like Ann Margaret, Jack Nicholson, and Candice Bergen.
He told us about an anti-war song he and Simon wrote in their early days of fame, but didn’t record at the time. “We were cowards,” he said with ease.
He spoke about his five favorite songwriters—citing Paul Simon as one of them, and Randy Newman. He covered Newman’s “Real Emotional Girl,” which was unfortunate given the number of Garfunkel tunes we would have preferred to hear but didn’t. It didn’t help that at least half the night was spent talking and reading as much as playing music.
The most genuine moment of the night was during “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her,” starting with the opening line, “What a dream I had.” For this tune he closed his eyes and pushed a bit extra to close it out with the boldest singing of the night, “ohhh I love you.”
He sang briefly in Hebrew for a story he read from his biography. Late in the show he gave us “The Sound of Silence,” which he said was the song that “changed his whole damn life.” Here he left his spot in the center and walked to both ends of the stage.
Few songs can rival “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” He wisely warned us before starting that he would only sing two of the three verses—“no big ending” without strings and horns. No matter, while hearing the song drop out was disappointing, even one verse of that song from his voice was still worth the ticket price. The audience was timid — we weren’t allowed to get up, exit or enter during songs — but a few stood for this one.
At 79, Garfunkel has aged, as has his voice, though still near-impeccable. But his songs feel current, and it was a treat for all to see an icon sing such epic American tunes so gently and simply.