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Paul Simon: Live In New York City(2012)
6 June 2011 at Webster Hall, New York, NY, USA
For more about Paul Simon: Live In New York City and the Paul Simon: Live In New York City Blu-ray release, see Paul Simon: Live In New York City Blu-ray Review published by Jeffrey Kauffman on September 22, 2012 where this Blu-ray release scored 4.0 out of 5.
Starring: Paul Simon
» See full cast & crew
Paul Simon: Live In New York City Blu-ray Review
Still just slightly eccentric after all these years.
Reviewed by Jeffrey Kauffman, September 22, 2012
If folk music is by its very definition music of the people, music reflecting idioms of those not especially well schooled in complex composition, what might that mean for labeling the music of Paul Simon, an artist whose early work at least was lumped into that "folk music" genre? Could Simon's often brainy approach be termed "folk music for the intelligentsia?" Even in the earliest efforts of Simon & Garfunkel, Simon's brilliant lyrics and harmonically adventurous music was hardly made of the same stuff as the work of, say, Woody Guthrie or even Bob Dylan. And through the years of Simon & Garfunkel, things only got more complex, culminating in everything from the almost Baroque splendor of "Bridge Over Troubled Water" to the Andes-flavored "El Condor Pasa". Once Simon and Garfunkel split, Simon seemed intent on proving himself even more of a Renaissance Man, giving us hints of everything from doo-wop ("Kodachrome") to a sort of Billy Joel-esque, quasi-jazz balladry ("Still Crazy After All These Years"). Simon is not an especially warm personality and can in fact come off as a bit (or even more than a bit) on the self-absorbed side (see Under African Skies, the recent documentary recounting the story and legacy of Graceland, for some great examples), and he is also an often laconic singer, but in this intimate 2011 concert filmed at New York City's Webster Hall, he moves through a career spanning array of tunes and seems if not exactly self effacing at least in a relatively personable frame of mind.
Simon's famously prickly personality has been well documented, first in his less than amicable breakup with Garfunkel, and then in various breathless press reports when, for example, his brief marriage (and then longer reunion) with Carrie Fisher provided grist for the tabloid mill for quite some time. That less than friendly reportage, along with Simon's own penchant for not really making any bones about how he sees himself in the vast array of American popular music, may have turned some fans off through the years, but the fact remains his music is a vital, energizing force which is consistently imaginative and intricately wrought.
Simon has been an adventurous traveler in what has come to be known as World Music, probably most prominently with Graceland but certainly not limited to that legendary release. That proclivity is on display throughout this concert, with an array of interesting instrumental combinations. The opener, "The Obvious Child", blends a Zydeco feel with some quasi-reggae backbeats and helps to set the aural stage for what is a planet trotting expedition through a variety of styles and approaches. Keep an eye on the unusual array of percussion instruments, including an overturned bucket, which Simon's backup personnel utilize to help add color to the proceedings.
Stories are legion about Simon's meticulousness in the recording studio (many of them told over the years by Simon himself), and what's perhaps a little surprising in this live outing is how well Simon adjusts his sometimes incredibly layered studio work to the rigors of performing with a limited number of supporting players. While some of these arrangements sound at least a little stripped down when compared to their studio versions, there's also a vivacity and palpable energy that's at play here, with some especially appealing work by a very skilled rhythm section. Simon, who is rather incredibly in his seventies now, seems little worse for the wear, and still has his nicely relaxed upper register.
Those who are old enough to have been introduced to Simon's music way back in "The Dark Ages" of the sixties may understandably gravitate to some of the more nostalgia provoking songs in this concert, including a beautiful rendition of "The Sound of Silence," but the concert manages to remind audiences just how lively Simon has been at virtually every stage of his career. Early solo Simon outings like "Mother and Child Reunion" still bristle with a palpable energy and more recent tunes like "So Beautiful or So What" or "Dazzling Blue" reveal Simon's penchant for intelligent lyrics blended with just slightly off kilter, asymmetrical song writing structures. While Simon is obviously the force holding all of this together, he does allow the band some freedom to stretch out, at least now and then, and Mark Rossi, Andy Snitzer and Mark Stewart all contribute some nice licks along the way.
The musicians performing in this concert are:
Paul Simon: guitar, vocals
Tony Cedras: horns, accordion, keyboards, guitars, vocals
|Jamey Haddad: percussion
Bakithi Kumalo: bass, percussion, vocals
Vincent Nguini: guitars, vocals
Jim Oblon: drums, guitars, vocals
Mick Rossi: piano, Hammond organ, percussion, harmonium
Andy Snitzer: saxophone, synthesizer, flutes, glockenspiel
Mark Stewart: guitars, saxophone, wind instruments, vocals
The band's set list consists of:
Paul Simon: Live In New York City Blu-ray, Video Quality
Paul Simon Live in New York City is presented on Blu-ray courtesy of Hear Music and Concord Music Group with an AVC encoded 1080p transfer in 1.78:1. This is a nicely sharp and well detailed looking concert offering that benefits from the relatively intimate setting of Webster Hall. Camera coverage is often up close and personal, which helps to amplify fine object detail. While a lot of the concert is rather dark, resulting in minimal shadow detail at best, perhaps because of the progressive presentation, posterizing is really at a minimum despite the penchant for bathing the stage in cobalt blue lighting.
Paul Simon: Live In New York City Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Perhaps surprisingly, Paul Simon Live in New York City features only an uncompressed LPCM 2.0 stereo mix, with no lossless surround mix on tap. This is one of a very few high definition concert offerings I personally can remember that does not include a surround mix. (What's especially odd is that the legendary Phil Ramone, a frequent Simon producer - collaborator, aided in the mix and I for one can't imagine he wouldn't have preferred a surround mix for the concert.) While that may indeed be a major deal breaker for some potential consumers, the LPCM track here offers excellent fidelity which, while narrow, manages to ably present all of the percussion instruments with ease while never sacrificing Simon's sometimes gentle vocalizing or the rhythm section. All frequency ranges are reproduced with clarity and precision, and while many no doubt will be desirous of a surround mix, the stereo mix is fine within its own limited sonic space.
Paul Simon: Live In New York City Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
No supplements of any kind are included on this Blu-ray disc.
Paul Simon: Live In New York City Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Paul Simon Live in New York City is an affable and very enjoyable trip through Simon's long and storied career. There's a certain "distance" that Simon always seems to keep from his audience, even when they're not more than an arm's length from him, and that tendency is still at least somewhat on display here. That said, Simon is in mostly fine voice and the band sounds spectacular, especially the battery of percussion instruments (when was the last time you saw a glockenspiel at a pop-rock concert?). This concert should easily satisfy fans from most eras of Simon's multifaceted contributions to popular music, though many will no doubt be wondering about the lack of a surround mix, not to mention the dearth of supplementary material. With caveats noted, this release comes Recommended.
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