GENEVA, NY—Art Garfunkel’s show on October 23 at Geneva’s Smith Center for the Arts was equally as memorable as an exceptional performance as it was a story of healing and perseverance. Without question, Garfunkel’s voice has taken some measured, reassuring steps back, far away from the perilous brink of blown vocal cords. Now completely healed, Garfunkel is touring again, delighting audiences with Simon & Garfunkel favorites, original songs, and covers from Gershwin’s “Someone to Watch Over Me” to Newman’s “Real Emotional Girl”. Never lagging for a minute, the performance included read excerpts from Garfunkel’s forthcoming autobiography (expect it on shelves sometime in 2016) and bits of humorous, improvised banter about his life’s experiences, family, and philosophies (“Life is a fabulous mystery. Be kind to people. That’s about all there is to it.”). Despite thinking he might run the risk of “boring [us] with a couple autobiography excerpts” the audience was obviously engaged and enjoying what was billed and delivered as an “Intimate Evening” with the iconic vocalist.
Proclaiming that his “heart is still young and his voice is back” Garfunkel and “premier player “ acoustic guitarist Tab Laven segued, appropriately, into “The Boxer” and made me realize both men must be most comfortable and at home when they’re on a stage, entertaining an audience with their respective talents. Almost as if he might be confirming my theory, Garfunkel said, “I love doing this stuff” and shared a story about himself as a young, wild-haired, successful kid with New York City on a string, then impressed with “A Heart In New York” and “Scarborough Fair” which he claimed as his favorite and “most organic” Simon & Garfunkel tune.
After the intermission Garfunkel and Laven opened the second half of the show with “Homeward Bound”, an unplanned setlist flip-flop of “For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her” and “Bright Eyes”, and continued with “Kathy’s Song”. Unfortunately and for whatever reason—the small setlist hiccup which ended up confusing the lighting crew, someone’s thumping subwoofer passing on Seneca Street, or a revived, borderline-rude audience (Garfunkel: “Was there beer at the intermission?”)—the show’s second half had a hard time reaching the ease and rhythm of the opening set. Songs, excerpts, and banter were pushed along at a hurried, unsettling pace. Except for Simon’s masterpiece, “The Sound of Silence”, which was delivered with customary brilliance and power, the show’s closing set spiraled out and reached its sad end, sans encore, when an eager audience member’s voice carried clearly throughout the house and interrupted Garfunkel three times, mid-excerpt. Despite a shift in mood, Garfunkel continued, an unaffected pro, “tucking us in” with a sweet delivery of the traditional “Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep” lullaby.
All in all, through a strong first set, a second set that couldn’t steady itself, and some classics that weren’t performed (no “Bridge Over Troubled Water” tonight, Geneva), the show was a performance by an indisputable vocal champ and class-act entertainer, one worthy of its hype and anticipation, and one that surely impressed the audience that packed the historic and easy-on-the-eye opera house.