Art Garfunkel: Philharmonic Hall, Liverpool

Art Garfunkel

Art Garfunkel

One half of one of the greatest duos in music history, Getintothis’ Shaun Ponsonby finds a singer in the midst of finding his voice again, 

Walking on stage to a brief bemused silence, Art Garfunkel was eventually recognised by the sold out Philharmonic Hall and received rapturous applause. It seems that it took the audience a second to re-adjust now that Garfunkel has lost his trademark Jewfro.

Five minutes earlier, a gentleman had walked on stage and instructed us, in no uncertain terms, that not only was there no photography permitted, but we were to switch our phones off. Not put them on silent, switch them off. And to double check to make sure they were switched off entirely.

Boy, he’s strict.

However, once the show began the reason behind this became apparent.

Garfunkel is returning to the stage following a number of years of major vocal problems. In essence, he lost his voice entirely. Therefore, it makes sense that he is currently touring with extremely intimate shows. Tonight he is accompanied solely by guitarist Tad Laven, with the occasional appearance from his son, Arthur Jr to belt out Everly Brothers tunes, and he talks at length. IF the occasional cough in the audience was majorly distracting, then vibrating phones certainly would have been.

There were times when his road to recovery was evident in his voice, however at large he has re-discovered his sound and he at least sounds like Art Garfunkel again, if understandably a little weathered.

Around half of the set were Simon & Garfunkel tunes, with an opening duo of April Come She Will and The Boxer (with the audience undecided as to whether to sing along with the “li-li-li” chorus in such a low-key show), with a smattering of solo tunes, such as A Heart in New York and Bright Eyes and an unexpected Randy Newman cover (“one of his few songs that isn’t sarcastic”).

Between songs, Art read out pieces of prose that he had written about his life over the last thirty years or so, giving the show an autobiographical tone. Occasionally, these segments were in danger of becoming pretentious. Luckily, Garfunkel possesses a gorgeous speaking voice and surrounded the prose readings with humour (after the first; “that one might be a bit pompous”).

Towards the end, he finally spoke of Paul Simon. “Forget everything you’ve ever read. Forget the words that have come out of my own mouth,” he pleads, before professing his profound love for his old partner.

Ending with a version of Bridge Over Troubled Water in an arrangement that is unfinished – ending after the second verse – Art respectfully took his standing ovation and left the stage with class.

It seems that we are still seeing Garfunkel in the midst of easing his voice back in to full-time work. However, the restraints meant he was able to construct a different show. One that was unique and gave an insight into the man behind the voice everybody knows so well.

And the clincher? This writer covered a Paul Simon gig earlier this year. That means I can say that in 2015 I saw Simon & Garfunkel and technically I’m telling the truth. Even if I did see them separately.