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Oh, How They Rocked

Saturday (Jan. 20) night saw the return of Metroland’s annual local-music bash and food-pantries benefit, better known as Feedback. This year’s show was quite a success, with almost $1,000 raised for the Food Pantries of the Capital Region, and more nonperishable food was collected (if our collective memory serves us) than ever before. All 10 bands (including Hector on Stilts, pictured) rocked out, running on schedule, amazingly, and entertaining the hundreds of people that braved the brutal cold to come out to the show.

PHOTO: Kathryn Lurie

And the Singer Sings His Song

 By John Brodeur

Art Garfunkel

Proctor’s Theatre, Jan. 21

Simon & Garfunkel came along neatly at the time when the divide between singers and songwriters—and between folk and rock music—was closing up. Before, songwriters had their place (in cubicles) and singers just sang the songs. But the duo from New York City became one of the most popular recording artists of their day, if not all time, by wrapping it all up in a neat little package—they made the transition from folk to rock and back seamlessly, “going electric” the same year as Dylan; and they had a songwriter’s songwriter in Simon, and a singer’s singer in Garfunkel, who, for my money, has one of the most pleasing voices in the history of popular music.

That singer’s singer came to the area on Sunday to promote Some Enchanted Evening, a new album of standards due out this month. While that American songbook crap is getting a bit old and typical, it’s extremely preferable to hear “Someone to Watch Over Me” sung by Art Garfunkel rather than Rod Freaking Stewart. And on Sunday’s show, the biggest surprise wasn’t the song selection (expectedly, about two-thirds Paul Simon, a fact he acknowledged in “Homeward Bound” by singing “Tonight I’ll sing his songs again”), it was Garfunkel’s voice, as remarkably pure and familiar as ever. If the reverb had been stripped and his voice laid bare for the audience, he still would have sounded like the Garfunkel of 35 years ago. Of his few minor hesitations, one came in the third verse of perennial tear-duct-tickler “Bridge Over Troubled Water,” where it could be presumed that he was simply thinking ahead to that soaring final chorus—which he nailed, thank you very much. (If there’s ever been a more consistently effective moment in popular song than the final 0:45 of “Bridge,” I challenge you to present it.)

“I’m old enough to know now that stage nerves never go away,” the 65-year-old Garfunkel noted early in the 90-minute show. But those nerves didn’t show beyond the first three songs—once he got his sea legs, he did little that could have disappointed his audience. Dressed in an untucked, button-down shirt, jeans, and black boots, he was a generous and gracious performer, with that same old “aw, schucks” demeanor that’s endeared him to generations of fans.

This type of performance can be marred by poor song choices or arrangements, and it certainly had its share. A faux-calypso mangling of “Cecilia” (complete with a lengthy drum solo!) was especially cringeworthy; “Mrs. Robinson” felt stiff, despite the band’s best attempts to rock out; and synthesizer player Ted Baker tacked a goofy intro onto “El Condor Pasa” that sounded lifted from one of those commercials for Zamfir, Master of the Pan Flute.

But none of this mattered when Garfunkel sang. He settled right into the aforementioned standards—Antonio Carlos Jobim’s “Quiet Nights of Quiet Stars” was especially well-handled—and when he and guitarist Larry Saltzman sat down for a stirring rendition of the antiwar folk tune “Side of a Hill” (also known as the “Canticle” portion of “Scarborough Fair/Canticle”), his message was as devastatingly clear as his voice.


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