Art Garfunkel performs his Intimate Evening Tour at the New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham on Sunday 7th September 2014.
Review by Kevin Cooper
If you wanted to go to a concert where sex, drugs and rock ‘n’ roll were the order of the day, then this intimate evening with Art Garfunkel was not for you.
This was an emotional evening of nostalgia and passion as the world renowned idol, who in fact seemed more humble than could hardly be believed, entered the stage wearing a checked shirt, and sat on a stool as he poured out his heart to a packed New Alexandra Theatre, Birmingham.
Arguably one of the finest and distinct singers of the rock era, Garfunkel’s majestic voice was nearly silenced four years ago. In the day, Art’s voice was so golden that, he reveals, he could sing for the cows whilst he was out walking, and they would gather round to listen. However, vocal chord paralysis reduced this legend’s voice to a husk. Describing his struggles, the 72 year old said, “I have no idea how it happened, you have to be brave to heal out in public. Well here I am”. And this audience was glad he was here.
Joining him on stage was the solitary Tab Laven, who having previously toured with Michael Johnson and Mary MacGregor, gracefully gave over the stage to Art whilst superbly backing him with his acoustic guitar.
It was clear that his fans were thrilled to see him back on the stage as Art walked out to a standing ovation and such huge applause that he had to stop singing April Come She Will, and start the song again. Following up with The Boxer, it was clear that his voice was a little croaky, but as he later explained, “It seems so easy, but any one of these tunes could go south any minute”. Fortunately as the set progressed, that minute never came.
For the Simon and Garfunkel fanatics, the high point of the night may have been his performance of Scarborough Fair followed by Paul Simon’s little known anti-war song, The Side Of A Hill.
Singing Bright Eyes he explained that the song had been a massive hit everywhere but America, and although he struggled with the high notes of songs such as Homeward Bound, it was a fight in which all of the audience gave him their unwavering support. But when the singer launched into all-time favourite, Sounds Of Silence, he was excellent. Joined by just Laven’s acoustic guitar, Art’s soft and unmistakably smooth vocals sent shivers down the spines of the audience with his moving rendition of the 1966 hit.
His poems recited from an upcoming book, and anecdotes between songs were endearing. He gave fans a glimpse into the ups and downs of his 50 year career, including his infamous fall out with Paul Simon, telling us, “Forget what you’ve read. Paul Simon is a man who has enormously enriched my life”. The audience were so enthralled by his every word that in truth if Art’s voice does ever go completely, he could find a second career as a raconteur.
Art closed the night with a reworking of Bridge Over Troubled Water for the acoustic guitar. His stirring performance of that uplifting 1970 chart topper proved that Garfunkel is neither down or out as audience members had to remember to close their mouths that had involuntarily opened in simple awe of this man.
The star’s moving and passionate performance saw him receive two standing ovations, as he stood with his hand to heart, thanking fans and appearing to be a little overwhelmed. “To sing is to spread joy”, he said, and with such a beautiful voice and a wonderful character, that is indeed what Art did.
Tonight we had been in the presence of greatness, and it was an experience that will not be forgotten any time soon.