Too Hip to Trip
The Art Garfunklel show came to the Kauffman Center for the Performing Arts in Kansas City yesterday evening, giving this fan and perhaps as many at fifteen hundred others the chance to relive a bit of their youth. It was a grand performance that rolled back the years to the time that I was busy acquiring social skills and a lifetime of bad habits in college. A time it was, oh what a time it was. . .
First, a few words about the Kauffman Center, Kansas City's premier performing ats facility. From the outside it bears a resemblance to the iconic Sydney Opera House, something that Art Garfunkel, a Brooklynite, noted during his performance. He commented on the quality sound of the threatre in which he was performing, saying that perhaps the only venues he has performed in where the sound was better were the Sydney Opera House and the Royal Albert Hall in London.
I had always wanted to tour the Kauffman, and last night provided me with that opportunity. The theatre where Art Garfunkel performed was an elaborate affair with four sections of floor seating and multiple balconies, but it was obviously not the facility's main hall. There were a number of people headed to the other end of the building in more formal attire than the Kansas City Power and Light District tee-shirt, blue jeans, and sandals that I was wearing! I presumed there was opera in the air. They were undoubtedly heading to the main stage.
Last night's show that us more common types attended was a bit on the minimalist side, much like the original duo of Simon and Garfunkel who captured the hearts of America's youth with their unique and highly poetic songs back in the sixties. There were no pyrotechnics and dancing lights to distract from the simple, elegant music. The vocalist, Art Garfunkel, is an older gentleman now who is teetering on elderly - age seventy-five! He said that he had a voice issue in 2010 that left him unable to sing for over a year, and his recovery has been a slow process. The voice is still distinctive and lovely, but its power has diminished considerably.
But damn, it was still Art Garfunkel - and Pa Rock was sitting third row, dead-bang center, close enough to the legend to have counted the fillings in his teeth or held his microphone!
Back-up consisted of two individuals - a fellow from Nashville, closer to the singer's age than not, who played guitar, and a young man who could not have been out of his twenties on keyboards. Garfunkel described the keyboardist as the "best piano player" that he had ever worked with - and the lad was amazing! The guitar picker wasn't too shabby either.
The evening began with a beautiful rendition of "April Come She Will" and progressed through many songs of Simon and Garfunkel, including most of the ones that a reasonable person would murder to hear performed live by either member of the duo - "Sounds of Silence," "Bridge Over Troubled Water," "Homeward Bound," "Mrs. Robinson," and "Scarborough Fair," to name but a few - as well as solo songs by Garfunkel and other noted artists and friends of his such as James Taylor and the Everly Brothers. At one point Garfunkel said that James Taylor should be President, and the crowd boisterously agreed.
A nice part of the evening focused on Garfunkel reading some of his own poetry (he is, of course, a very introspective guy), and commenting on various aspects of his life. The vocalist is a great walker who has strode across Japan, the United States, and a big chunk of Europe. He told about an evening when he was walking across Pennsylvania and came upon some cows grazing on a hillside. He said that he stood there staring and began to sing - and the cows gathered around to listen. Say what you will about Pennsylvania cows, but they are not stupid.
There were lots of asides about the early days with Paul Simon, and it was obvious that they are still great friends.
He also told an hilarious tale involved with the filming of the movie, Carnal Knowledge. He and Jack Nicholson walked into the bedroom of the character played by Candice Bergen, who was asleep. Jack became upset because Bergen's character was "always asleep," not realizing that she was slipping into a coma. Nicholson's role called for him to quickly escalate from zero to furious, but each time he hit the zenith of his rage, the director, the late Mike Nichols, called "cut" and made him start over. That went on for several takes, and Nicholson, the consummate professional, always came through. Garfunkel said that he asked him later about the difficulty of doing that scene over and over, and Nicholson replied simply - "I'm an actor, that's what I do."
Art Garfunkel, who had begun the show by saying, "I can't believe I'm still doing this," added later in the show that he is still doing it because he is a singer and that what he does.
And he does it so well!
Did I mention that I was on the third row, dead-bang center?