A beautiful late spring afternoon in the lower Hudson Valley was concluded with a performance by Art Garfunkel at the Paramount Hudson Valley Theatre in Peekskill. Billed as “An Intimate Evening With Art Garfunkel,” that feeling was real from the moment of entering the theater: the audience dressed in better-than-jeans, stage dimly lit with a cloth-draped table, two microphones and a stool.
Garfunkel arrived on stage to a standing ovation after a few refrains on guitar by his guitarist Tab Laven, a showing of the loyalty by his followers of many years and admiration by a few members of a younger generation in attendance. Despite having to call off a 2010 tour with long time musical partner Paul Simon due to injuries affecting his voice, it was clear that the packed theater was eager to hear the singer perform once again after four years of recovery.
It was a unique type of show for the singer who had often performed his popular folk shows alongside Paul Simon to large audiences. Part song, part story, it reflected some of the emotion of a traditional folk concert with music mixed with spoken word and audience participation by softly singing along with some songs. Feeling nostalgic, Garfunkel shared stories and thoughts from his personal and professional life reading from handwritten notes on the backs of envelopes. He spoke of his experiences at the height of fame 44 years ago in New York City, memories of working alongside Jack Nicholson in his brief acting stint and the songwriting/recording process (particularly in regard to “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”). He reflected on the beauty and joy of his son Beau, who was one year old at the time he wrote that short poem in 2006. His story that resonated most was his “Note To Self,” one he also presented on CBS This Morning as seen here:
Retrospective aside, Garfunkel did perform several crowd pleasing songs – major hits from his time with Paul Simon, a few covers originally by his favorite songwriters as well as some of his own recordings. With beautiful guitar intonations by Laven, the duo presented memorable performances of “The Boxer,” “Homeward Bound” (substituting “Peekskill” into the lyrics), “99 Miles From LA,” “Kathy’s Song,” and “The Sound of Silence” among others. The evening concluded with an arrangement in progress of “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” where Garfunkel is working hard at bringing his voice back.
Garfunkel started the evening with a remark about being the least jaded of performers out there. He confirmed his thought at the end of the evening with an unscripted Q&A session with the audience. He was humbled by compliments and enthusiastic in his answers often elaborating beyond the point of the question.
Throughout his career Garfunkel had been famed for his high octave register. Fans expecting to hear that on his tour may have been let down. However, the singer who was proud to acknowledge on stage that his tour is a “public rehearsal and recovery,” did not disappoint in his performance. Now in more of a tenor/alto range, his singing had a gentleness to it that resonated wisdom in song. There were a few times where he faded to a whisper when he tried to reach the highest of notes, a sign that he still has a little more progress to make. However, it did contribute a nuance that worked into the songs nicely, especially adding grace to “Bridge Over Troubled Water.” At 72, Garfunkel showed a resilience and determination to bring his voice back 100%.
Art Garfunkel’s performance at the Paramount will be not be forgotten by his many fan in attendance and hopefully will be planted in the memories of the younger people in attendance for years to come. While there is nothing in the books, Garfunkel had expressed his openness to touring with Paul Simon again in the future which surely would be a show not to miss based on what we saw at the Paramount.