Paul Simon, ‘Live in New York City’ – Album Review
âSo Beautiful or So What,â the album Paul Simon released last year, was his best in two decades. Itâs funny, smart, tuneful and, most of all, personal. Simon has never shied away from revealing too much. Going all the way back to Simon and Garfunkelâs earliest recordings, and continuing throughout his solo albums, the singer-songwriter finds universal truths through his own relationships.
That he still found much to say about love, life and death at age 70 says a lot about Simon. That he can make a 2011 concert in his hometown of New York City sound like an intimate performance for just a few friends says even more. The 20 songs on the 90-minute âLive in New York Cityâ (which comes with a DVD of the show) span his career — from âThe Sound of Silenceâ to âSo Beautiful or So Whatâ — and most of them still sound remarkably fresh.
Part of the credit goes to Simonâs eight-piece band, which holds back on the quieter tracks (âHearts and Bonesâ) and cuts loose on the celebratory âGracelandâ songs (there are five of them here). But this is mostly Simonâs show, from the nimble opener âThe Obvious Childâ (from the underrated âGracelandâ follow-up LP âThe Rhythm of the Saintsâ) to the closing âStill Crazy After All These Years,â a fitting cap to both the concert and the album.
In between, Simon covers the expected (âDiamonds on the Soles of Her Shoes,â âThe Sound of Silenceâ), the unexpected (âSlip Slidinâ Away,â âThe Only Living Boy in New Yorkâ) and a few that never pick up much momentum in the setting (â50 Ways to Leave Your Lover,â âLate in the Eveningâ).
Better are the handful of songs that Simon hasnât performed onstage in years, including âThe Obvious Child,â âMother and Child Reunionâ and âKodachrome.â And even though the âLive in New York Cityâ versions of the âGracelandâ songs arenât as glorious as they were back when Simon toured with South African musicians in 1987, theyâre highlights of the set, with both band and audience connecting with the grooves. And somehow even these moments donât get away from Simon, who lords over them with a deft, subtle touch. Itâs like heâs playing them just for you.