Absence can't make Art grow stronger

ROCK

"YOU DIDN'T think I still had this much hair, did you?" chided Art Garfunkel on stage at the Royal Festival Hall on Tuesday. True enough, he didn't look as bald as we might have expected, six years after his last visit. Weird as that coiffure is - a Ronald McDonald clown wig that's slipped back a couple of inches - it never changes. He's still curly after all these years.

His voice, though, has grown husky. On "Bridge Over Troubled Water" it somehow scaled old heights - wistful, lonely, and strangely hollow - but mostly he sounded severely in need of a packet of Tunes. He's got plenty of tunes with a small "t", though: "I Only Have Eyes For You", "Wonderful World", and the Watership Down theme, "Bright Eyes", still the most powerful song ever written about rabbits. With the hymnal "American Tune", he skidded out of his own solo oeuvre and into that of his ex-partner-in-rhyme. From then on, Paul Simon was a ghostly presence, a wraith who seeped into the concert like smoke until he threatened to engulf it altogether.

Before "Scarborough Fair", Garfunkel pondered: "If I had to pick my favourite of all the Simon and Garfunkel tunes, it would be this one." Was it a co-incidence that the song, derived from a traditional folk melody, has the one tune that Simon didn't write? The teasing continued on "Homeward Bound". He replaced "all my words come back to me" with "all his words come back to me", flipping his thumb sideways at an imaginary Simon.

Ice duly broken, he warmed to the theme. One reason that the duo split, he said, was that he had suggested changing a lyric of "Mrs Robinson" from "wo wo wo" to "woo woo woo". "Paul was so touchy," cracked Garfunkel, and slotted in his own words tonight.

He could build a whole stand-up routine around the "former-colleagues- who-have-done-better-than-I-have" line. There is Jack Nicholson, his co- star in the 1971 film Carnal Knowledge. Garfunkel has been jealous of Nicholson ever since, and believes that he would have been better as The Joker in Batman: "I would have done him more ... low-key and wry."

For this concert, he had found co-vocalists less likely to upstage him. On "Cecilia" he was joined by Kathryn Cermak, aka Mrs Garfunkel. I'm not calling her a trophy wife, but as she stood there in a little black dress and on a little black podium, she did look weirdly like a statuette. And for a sprightly jog through "Feelin' Groovy", he ushered in their four- year-old, James, to hit the high notes for him: at last Garfunkel had found a duettist shorter than Simon.

But as with "Mrs Robinson", the gimmick turned a great song into a passable joke, and turned Garfunkel into the dumb blond with the golden voice, willing to play up to his role as a nostalgia act who coulda been a contender. For all its self-deprecating charm, this attitude seemed a bit sad. Wistful, lonely, and hollow; low-key and wry.

On the stage of the London Palladium was a platform with patterned rugs - the sort that students bring back from a year off - spilling over the edge. Rickie Lee Jones sat cross-legged on these, hugging her acoustic guitar, tea-cosied in a woollen hat: all your American, female, hippy- drippy, campfire, singer-songwriter nightmares made flesh. The critically acclaimed missing link between Joni Mitchell and Sheryl Crow, tonight she was more like Phoebe from the American sitcom Friends.

In keeping with her new album, Naked Songs (Reprise), she had sloughed her backing band, and had only a few threads of guitar and piano to cover her modesty. Most of her lyrics, though, were kept well-hidden by her incomprehensible delivery. She seems to imagine that the crass formula of pop music is beneath her, what with all its tunes, rhymes, scansion and so forth.

Exceptions were "Coolsville", a gripping, frightening collision of scat- singing and scattiness; and in a lighter mood, "Chuck E's in Love" and "Easy Money". But frequently her childish, gawky persona made you believe that you were watching a whole concert by Art Garfunkel's son.

Paul Brady is a Northern Irish singer-songwriter who looks like Van Morrison's little brother, and whose compositions have been covered by the likes of Bonnie Raitt, Tina Turner ... and Art Garfunkel. No, not a great recommendation, perhaps, and it's true that his fortysomething soft rock is more sensible than startling. He tends to make a drama out of a mid-life crisis.

In the Jazz Cafe on Monday, though, he loosened up, played a mean tin whistle, and performed with bags of craft, assurance and heart. Inci- dentally, Eric Clapton was in the audience, clapping along. He looked to be enjoying himself a lot more than he does at his own concerts.

Arts and Entertainment

Film Leonardo DiCaprio hunts Tom Hardy

Arts and Entertainment
And now for something completely different: the ‘Sin City’ episode of ‘Casualty’
TV
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

    Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

    After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
    The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

    Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

    The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
    10 best sun creams for kids

    10 best sun creams for kids

    Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
    Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

    Tate Sensorium

    New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
    Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

    He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
    Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

    Remember Ashton Agar?

    The No 11 that nearly toppled England
    Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

    US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

    Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

    'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

    VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

    Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
    The male menopause and intimations of mortality

    Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

    So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
    Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

    'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

    Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
    Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

    Bettany Hughes interview

    The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
    Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

    Art of the state

    Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
    Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

    Vegetarian food gets a makeover

    Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks