CD+DVD Reviews

Paul Simon – Live In New York – Concord Music /Hear Music (2 CDs + DVD)

A no-gimmicks video record of a great Paul Simon concert, and the CDs replicate the DVD.

Published on October 9, 2012

Paul Simon – Live In New York – Concord Music Group/Hear Music (2 CDs – 93:25 + DVD, 16:9 PCM stereo – 93:53), [9/18/2012] ****1/2:

(Paul Simon – guitar, vocals; Tony Cedras – trumpet, accordion, keyboards, guitar, vocals; Jamey Haddad – percussion; Bakithi Kumalo – bass, percussion, vocals; Vincent Nguinin – guitar, vocals; Jim Oblon – drums, guitar, vocals; Mick Rossi – piano, Hammond organ, harmonium, percussion; Andy Snitzer – saxophone, glockenspiel, synthesizer, flutes; Mark Stewart – guitar, saxophone, wind instruments, vocals)

It is conceivable that Paul Simon was the most influential musician/songwriter in the second half of the 20th century. As the creative force behind Simon & Garfunkel, he propelled folk into popular music.  Albums like Parsley, Sage Rosemary and Thyme, Bookends and Bridge Over Troubled Water transformed the music scene. The soundtrack from The Graduate included several S & G songs, injecting rock music into film. The duo split up in 1970 after three No. 1 hits. Simon forged a successful career as a solo artist. In 1986, he releases Graceland , a controversial (due to a cultural boycott at the time), acclaimed album that featured African township vibe music. Overall Paul Simon has received twelve Grammys, a host of Lifetime Achievement awards, and induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame. His ability to merge complex music with topical lyrics is unsurpassed.

His latest project is Paul SimonLive In New York City, a full concert film on DVD, with two audio CDs. Filmed (without any unnecessary gimmickry) at Webster Hall in New York City, Simon and his multi-faceted eight-piece band perform an exciting selection of solo material (and two Simon & Garfunkel numbers). Opening with “The Obvious Child”, Simon’s feel for spirited rhythm and melodic texture is featured. The ensemble is tight and rock out to the delight of the fans. Simon remains a vital songwriter. The concert showcases four songs from his latest album, So Beautiful So What. The first of these is the delicately cadenced “Dazzling Blue”. The percussion, acoustic guitar and backup vocals are exceptional. The title track reflects the harder edge of his musical arrangements, but with an achingly lovely chorus (and a flute accent). The attention to introspective detail (…Ain’t it strange how we seek out bad advice…”) is impressive. “Rewrite” is humorous and topical, and Simon’s guitar licks are great. The sound engineering on both formats is top-notch, clear and balanced; the 80-minute limit of the CD required two discs to equal the DVD soundtrack.

For aficionados of the earlier catalogue, the concert will not be disappointing. There are solid versions of hits like “50 Ways To leave Your Lover”, “Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes” and “The Boy In The Bubble”. However, the selection of eclectic material is fascinating. The rarely performed Simon & Garfunkle tune, “The Only Living Boy In New York” is a breath of fresh air.. Simon’s vocals are relaxed and confident. “Hearts And Bones” (from his sixth solo album) is full of poetic language and capable storytelling. Simon is comfortable as a performer, and shows it in his reggae-infected hit from the first album, “Mother And Child Reunion”. The band complements every song without exception. Not strictly catering to the audience, he dusts off minor gems like “Crazy Love, Vol. II” and “Gumboots” infusing them with frantic energy and exotic instrumentation.

But Simon is playing for the hometown fans and the encore features some of his most beloved compositions. He begins with a stunning vice and guitar version of “Sounds Of Silence”, including an instrumental verse introduction. The ensemble returns and they crank out a series of classics. “Late In The Evening” showcases the band’s talents. As the chords to “Still Crazy After All These Years” shimmer on the ecstatic concertgoers, it is clear that at 70, Paul Simon is still amazing!

TrackList (DVD + CD): The Obvious Child; Dazzling Blue; 50 Ways To Leave Your Lover; So Beautiful Or So What; Mother And Child Reunion; That Was Your Mother; Hearts And Bones; Crazy Love, Vol. II; Slip Slidin’ Away; Rewrite; The Boy In The Bubble; The Only Living Boy In New York; The Afterlife; Diamonds On The Soles Of Her Shoes; Gumboots; Encore: The Sound Of Silence; Kodachrome; Gone At Last; Late In The Evening; Still Crazy After All These Years

–Robbie Gerson




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