Crystal clear

Art Garfunkel on a luminous career on stage, page and in sneakers

NH Weekend Editor
May 10. 2018 1:42PM

If you go...
WHO: An Evening with Art Garfunkel

WHERE: Concord City Auditorium, 2 Prince St., Concord

WHEN: 7:30 p.m. Thursday

TICKETS: $49-$89

INFO:; 573-9122

Art Garfunkel, a practiced singer and interview subject after 60 years in the music business, saves the best quip for last, when his voice is a little hoarse.

“I’m listening to my own voice as I talk, and it sounds so froggy. You’d never believe, ‘This guys sings? And he sings with these clear high notes?’ ... Yes, I do. You might say the power of adrenaline is powerful. I know that when I go into song, things get delicious. Now, there’s a good closing line.”

Throughout a recent chat with Garfunkel from his New York home, he is engaging and chatty as he steers and periodically redirects the conversation to a series of talking points, often preempting a question by asking himself in the third person what he thinks.

“I’m the harmonist ... whose voice is cracking,” he says with a laugh.

It’s his iconic crystalline voice that helped make Simon and Garfunkel one of the top-selling groups of the 1960s with classics including “Scarborough Fair,” “The Sound of Silence,” “The Boxer” and “Bridge Over Troubled Waters.” (Four of the songs he and Paul Simon made hits before their 1970s split have been inducted into the Grammy Hall of Fame.) Plus, Garfunkel’s dulcet tones have supported a solo career that has spanned a dozen albums, with standouts being his Top 10 single “All I Know” and his cover of “I Only Have Eyes for You.”

At 76, Garfunkel, who is playing a Concord City Auditorium show at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, can joke about a little morning roughness in his pipes. But in 2010, he went through a vocal cord paresis that scared — and silenced — him.

“I lost my voice, and got it back,” he says. “I’m having so much fun. God has returned this lucky gift in my throat, and it feels very fresh. It’s wonderful to be able to sing again.”

He says he hasn’t lowered his register or made significant changes to his performance, with one exception.

“I don’t do the last verse of ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ I don’t do that,” Garfunkel says.

He’s talking about the “grandiose” crescendo that builds at the end of the haunting song, and he sings the high phrase of the memorable chorus to illustrate what he’s cut from the live rendition.

But Garfunkel, along with acoustic guitarist Tab Laven and keyboardist Dave Mackay, says he’s deliberate in making sure fans hear the songs they’ve come to love over the decades.

“I don’t want to be cute. I don’t want to go against expectation — you know, I was hoping he’d do the ‘Sound of Silence’ and he left it out,” Garfunkel says, mimicking a disgruntled fan. “To do that is coy. I don’t want to defy the obvious. So, it will be the ‘Sound of Silence’ in the show. I will have ... ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water.’ There will be the ones you expect — I’m sorry, there’s no ‘Cecilia’ in the show — but there’s plenty of Simon and Garfunkel because ... I would be a wise guy if I left it out.”

When asked which song from his solo career that he’d be in trouble with fans for not performing, he breaks into song: “I bruise you, you bruise me, we both bruise too easily ... It’s called ‘All I Know.’ It’s a Jimmy Webb song” that was featured on Garfunkel’s 1973 album “Angel Clare,” his debut solo effort.

Another crowd favorite is “A Heart in New York,” which he famously performed with Simon in a 1981 benefit reunion show dubbed The Concert in Central Park.

“There was a big helicopter shot looking down on us, and (Simon) was singing (the lyrics about New York) as it flew by,” Garfunkel says. “It was big. We were both shining with bliss. I run into it on TV sometimes and I stop. I don’t know when we were ever happier as performers, both of us. We were just shining with the fun of an audience that was half of a million ... It feels like love, massive does of love.

“I turned to Paul at the top of the show after I looked out at the crowd and said, ‘I knew we did something right, back in the ’60s, but I didn’t know it was this right,” Garfunkel adds.

He and Simon parted ways 48 years ago, and their relationship has been a rocky one since then. But they share a ground-breaking history in which two Queens teens became the face of the counterculture movement in turbulent times.

Garfunkel considers himself something of a fish out of water in this era, though.

“I don’t like the age we live in. I really have not joined .. you know, I’m getting up in years. I’ve passed my middle 70s, but I never bought a cell phone,” Garfunkel says. “I never bought a computer. I never bought a car... well, once in the ’70s I bought a Mercedes, so for a few years I had a car, but I’m really a misfit. I’m just not part of this age. I read books, I raise my family, and I love my concert. Tracing that line from the beginning through 17 songs ... is a thrill for me.”

When he mentions his love of reading, he means it. On his website, he chronicles every book he’s read.

“Get ready ... I have read 1,270-something books. I started the list when I was making (the film) ‘Catch 22’ for Mike Nichols,” Garfunkel says.

The 1970 war movie that marked Garfunkel’s acting debut was shot in Mexico, and there was a lot of downtime for actors waiting back at the hotel to be called for scenes. So, Garfunkel cracked open a book or two, and hasn’t stopped turning pages yet.

“It’s all good stuff. You know, Charles Darwin ... all the stuff they gave us in college that we skimmed through with our young minds and didn’t realize were worthy books. ‘War and Peace’ by Tolstoy is a terrific novel. So, I have gone back to all of them to slow down and really read them,” he says.

“It’s worthwhile. I recommend this for everyone. You’re a more developed person,” he says. “If they’re going to talk about bravery and honor, you’re going to bring your new head, the one that got older, to the reading experience, and the whole thing is richer. Know what I mean?”

It also inspired him to pen his own book, “What Is It All But Luminous: Notes from an Underground Man,” a collection of autobiographical thoughts, jottings and poetry that range from the salacious to the esoteric. The pieces are largely drawn from a notebook that Garfunkel, an avid walker, kept tucked in his back pocket during a series of travels around the world over the years.

“I seem to have become a writer over the years,” he says. “I walked across countries. I have walked across the entire United States, and now I’ve walked, picture this, from Western Ireland to Istanbul. Can you see that diagonal pathway? I’ve walked every step of the way. It’s about 2,000 miles.”

He compiled the miles in jaunts here and there over the years.

“I go out and do it in installments. I leave my wife and my family in New York, and I go out for a week and a half. Matthew is my helper with the Hertz rent-a-car. He picks me up at the end of the day.”

He pauses to tease in a sing-song voice, “Hertz, you have to give me some money for the plug.”

Garfunkel, who plans to thread some of the spoken-word bits into the Concord concert, seems comfortable on the stage and enjoys talking about his career. Yet he has always contended that he’s an introvert at heart.

“I’m an actor, dear,” he says drolly before chuckling. “I hide the insecurities. As I talk about ... in the show, ‘singing was my silent companion as I stepped over the threshold into a room full of strangers,’ which means to me that I sing to myself just as I picture the room, so I’ll have a companion. It’s an interesting notion to me.”

He says what makes him most happy these days are his sons, Arthur Jr., who is 26, and Beau, who is 12, as well as his wife, Kathryn “Kim” Luce Garfunkel, whom he married in 1988.

“My wife and how she keeps putting up with me makes me very happy. I can’t believe she can accept the funny man that I am, but she does. We’re up to 30 years of marriage,” he says. “I love, love this.

“Sometimes I start my show by saying to the audience, ‘I can’t believe I’m still doing this.’ It’s my joke, just to show them that I don’t treat this too seriously. And then I go and sing the first song, and I treat the whole thing very seriously. I’m an artist. I’m a devoted artist. I’m like my friend Jack Nicholson (with whom he starred in the 1971 Nichols movie “Carnal Knowledge” along with Candice Bergen and Ann-Margret). We are secretly and amazingly serious artists.”

That point is underscored when Garfunkel reaches the end of the interview and wants to make sure he’s checked off all the important talking points.

“You’re going to hang up and go, ‘Oh, I should have asked him about this. Let’s see ... we got his book, he’s now a writer; he loves his concert; he wasn’t sure what theater (in New Hampshire) he was coming to; his voice sounded (a bit hoarse) but the adrenaline makes it all better. What else? What else do you wish you asked me? Are you still walking a lot? No, I’ve taken a rest now.”

But he has no plans for retirement from music. When he hears that applause at the end of the show, “I imagine the audience is saying, ‘Bless you, Art, you are devoted to what you do. You’re still doing it.”

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