Art Garfunkel London Palladium

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The Independent Culture
There's no disputing the paternity of little Jimmy Garfunkel. The six-year-old dashed on stage as the opening chords for "59th Street Bridge Song" sounded, the spitting image of dad, cherubic face, trademark hair and a voice only slightly higher pitched.

Mum (backing vocalist Kim Chermak) was already on stage and his piping "feelin' groovy" brought grins of paternal pride. Donny Osmond eat your heart out. The grannies in the audience loved it. Art Garfunkel's show is a family affair - no strong language or (barring the long locks of the LA session man on synthesiser) long hair, safely corpulent sidemen on keyboards and guitar. All that and a lot of wonderful tunes - most of them courtesy of the man without whom Art would never have made it, respectable though his solo career has been, who is, of course, Paul Simon.

The show, which goes on to Belfast, Nottingham and Plymouth, is one of sweetness and light. The fare is golden standards, their arrangements generously sugared. Drums and keyboards run simple figures around Art's plangent voice. Mostly, he stands alone in the spotlight in a blue smock, fey, moving his hands gently as he moves gently through King and Greenfield's "Crying in the Rain", Dubin and Warren's "I Only Have Eyes for You" and then to where his audience waits for him, the purpose of the evening - hits from the Paul Simon songbook.

A harsh critic would call the first half of the programme catatonic. It's fair to say it was a performance that only woke up well into the catalogue. Perhaps Art had been thrown by a heckler who made some remark about doing it live; perhaps after all these years it is no longer crazy, just too familiar.

But with "Mrs Robinson", we hit the groove. Before Art sang the number, he felts the need to explain. "So many things went wrong," he says by way of exculpation to an audience which clearly finds it hard to dissociate him from the Paul Simon past (his foray into film passed this audience by). Tonight, though, he makes "Mrs Robinson" his song. He gives it a fresh, even funky treatment, much livelier than it gets on his latest album The Very Best of Art Garfunkel, Across America - a very soupy affair.

In the last half hour, the pace picks up. "Bridge Over Troubled Water" gets, to use the vernacular, full welly, and when we get to "Homeward Bound" he really hit his stride, and there's hardly a dry eye in the house.

Art is not making many concessions to Britain this tour. Art's patter is US patriotic. The album was recorded on Ellis Island, the old New York entry point, at the end of a long trek across the United States; during the concert he more than once referred to the great country that had welcomed his immigrant relatives and sustained him through 30 years. He meant him and Paul.

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