The City of Franklin proudly served as the launching pad for a brief tour by Art Garfunkel. The 72 year-old singer and high vocal half of the famous musical duo returned to the stage after recovering from vocal cord issues. These struggles set him back considerably since 2010. Garfunkel limited himself to only 10 dates in the South starting with two nights at the Franklin Theatre. His visit here was extended to three nights after the first two shows quickly sold out. Tickets were pricy at $200 and $100, but these shows were a benefit for “The Nicaragua Project,” a local nonprofit started by singer songwriter Gene Cotton.
This show–the middle of the three–began with Nashville guitarist Tab Laven playing to an offstage vocal which soon led to Garfunkel’s entrance and a warm Tennessee welcome. Throughout the evening, Laven gently accompanied the sensitive singer who sat on a stool interspersing his songs with segments of delightful poetry and storytelling. These brief interludes dealt with his life, film career, and–to fan delight–his favorite songwriter, Paul Simon.
While he still had his beautifully tender and recognizable voice, Garfunkel sang cautiously and with some restraint. He told us that he wasn’t ready to let it go full force, describing his current voice as “softer and weaker.” There were noticeable moments when he didn’t put forth the vocal push that one expected. A person not knowing what to expect, nonetheless, would still be totally amazed at his wonderful vocal ability.
The set list was likely worked around his weakened voice and incorporated the Simon & Garfunkel classics that were clearly “Artie” songs. The list included a shortened “Bridge Over Troubled Water” which he said he was still trying to work fully into his set. His version of “The Boxer” sounded incomplete without Simon leading the vocals. Mid-set, he was joined briefly by his son Art, Jr. who both looks and sounds very much like his Dad. The show hit its peak with a lovely rendition of his 1973 solo hit of Jimmy Webb’s “All I Know.”
At the end of the evening, Garfunkel entertained a 20-minute question and answer session in which he was open, honest, and entertaining. In a welcome to the “Buckle of the Bible Belt” moment, the Jewish Garfunkel was asked if the references to Jesus in their recorded works had anything to do with Simon’s and his faith. His reply was in the negative, citing that it was more a by-product of a theme that runs through American folk music. The final “question” of the evening was a real show stopper: A young woman revealed her zealous appreciation for the singer by presenting the tattoo of Garfunkel which she sports on her neck.
Once again, the Franklin Theatre brought another legendary talent into its historic walls. Perhaps for the first time in my experience, everyone adhered to the plea against photos. Fortunately, a Rolling Stone photographer was on duty, so perhaps some shots will surface at some point.
- And So It Goes (Billy Joel cover)
- April Come She Will
- The Boxer
- A Heart in New York
- For Emily, Whenever I May Find Her
- Perfect Moment
- Scarborough Fair
- Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars
- 99 Miles From L.A.
- Bright Eyes
- Real Emotional Girl (Randy Newman cover)
- Let It Be Me (The Everly Brothers cover) (with Art Garfunkel, Jr.)
- The Very Thought of You (Ray Noble cover) (Art Garfunkel, Jr.)
- All I Know
- The Sound of Silence
- Kathy’s Song
- [Q&A Session]
- Bridge Over Troubled Water
- Now I Lay Me Down to Sleep
Tab Laven—acoustic guitar