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Concert Review: Art Garfunkel

Concert Review: Art Garfunkel

How far away old age must have seemed to the young Garfunkel, then in the midst of S+G’s brief, but successful run as a duo.

Aladdin Theater, Portland, OR
05/18/2019

Perhaps the most peculiar track in the Simon and Garfunkel discography is “Voices of Old People,” found on Bookends (1968). Art Garfunkel, then in his mid-20s, compiled the track after recording elderly people over a period of a few months in New York City and Los Angeles. How far away old age must have seemed to the young Garfunkel, then in the midst of S+G’s brief, but successful run as a duo. Did he ever think that someday, he would be old himself?

Flash forward to 2019. Garfunkel is now 77 years old and looks very different than his 1968 incarnation. His signature nest of reddish-blonde curls is mostly gone. Only two tufts on the sides of his head remain. His boyish good looks have been lost to the vicissitudes of time. Yet, that golden voice that floats over songs such as “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and “The Sound of Silence” still remains. While many of the voices on that Bookends track sound raspy and shriveled, Garfunkel still sings with the sound of a younger man.

There is something lovingly ramshackle about a Garfunkel show, which mixes Simon and Garfunkel songs, covers and even a little poetry into the setlist. Flanked this time by an acoustic guitar and a keyboard, Garfunkel acted as master of ceremonies, regaling the audience with stories from his past, including references to Paul Simon, his walking tours across the country and even dedicating “Scarborough Fair” to Laurie Bird, Garfunkel’s girlfriend who committed suicide in 1979.

Garfunkel also read from What is it All but Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man, his memoir and poetry that was recently published. Of course, Knopf elected to go with a photo of the singer as a young man on the cover. The parts he shared were poems about Simon (who he claims is a friend), Tweeting and mortality. At 77 years old, how often does one think about the end? Especially the man who had thought to record old people talking when he was 26 or 27.

Beyond the requisite Simon and Garfunkel songs (including the “forgotten” song “A Poem on the Underground Wall”), the most touching moments came when Garfunkel’s 28-year-old son joined him on stage for a few duets, including a moving cover of “Let it Be Me.” Father and son sang cheek to cheek, locked in embrace. “I’m the proud papa,” Garfunkel beamed at one point and his pride reflected in his eyes.

Yet, it was strange to hear Garfunkel sing the lower portions as his son’s voice glided above in angelic harmony. In his old age, Garfunkel now sounds like Simon when he sang in a high register. And while he looks very different than that clear-eyed youth who took the stage at the Monterey Pop Festival, there were a few moments when Garfunkel stood, hand in pocket or fingers hooked through belt loops, where you could see the young man still. Then he finished the set with a brief and lovely “Now I Lay Me Down” before shuffling off to the wings.

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