“Don’t applaud the nutty guy,” said Art Garfunkel to the Lobero audience, talking about himself in one of the storytelling memoir-poetry moments of the “intimate evening” during which Garfunkel mentioned his obsessive “walking” of both America and Europe; he both bragged about the crossings and then begged our indulgence (I pictured something like Forrest Gump). Most of Garfunkel’s recitations, which he read from the back of envelopes, didn’t seem particularly nutty or even idiot savant-y, though sometimes obsessive. Still, each epiphany was greeted with sighed-out-loud exclamations from the audience. “Oh,” they said with pleasant surprise at the end as if fearing something terrible but getting nice writing instead.
The bigger surprise was the solemn beauty of his song selection. The show opened, after an envelope prose poem, with two of the most moving tunes from the Simon & Garfunkel songbook, “April Come She Will” and “The Boxer,” a song so good Bob Dylan covered it back in his prime. The chronological space between those songs precisely defines the wilderness Simon & Garfunkel roamed between aspiring to be poetic and then landing assured in “the poorer quarters where the ragged people go.” Garfunkel cheated some notes, but the phrasing was smart, rhythmical, and touching. And that was just the first 20 minutes of the show.
For the remainder, Garfunkel spread wisely between hits (“Okay, this is ‘Homeward Bound,’” he said somewhat resignedly), an “incomplete” version of “Bridge Over Troubled Water” and a delicately rendered “Scarborough Fair,” all accompanied by guitarist Tab Laven. His covers included Randy Newman’s “Real Emotional Girl” and David and Hammond’s 1975 hit “99 Miles from L.A.” (Performed here, the song became literally true.) But the showstopper was “The Sound of Silence,” and Garfunkel rocked it. He has 51 years under his belt since that song first hit the airwaves. Sure, Simon wrote the fine lyrics and Garfunkel can’t hit all the “words of the prophet written on the subway walls” like he once could, but he got enough of them in the tightly packed theater, and we applauded the nutty guy.