Go to the archives

Paul Simon: Live in New York City

By Jesse Kornbluth
Published: Sep 20, 2012
Category: Rock

If you sense there’s been a lot of Paul Simon on these screens of late, you’re right.

There was the video at the 10th anniversary of the destruction of the World Trade Center. Looking bludgeoned by the event and the place, he sang “Sound of Silence" — if you can watch it without choking up, you’re made of sterner stuff than I am.

Then there was the collection, Songwriter.

And the new release, So Beautiful… Or So What

And — not just because I wrote the introduction that comes with it — the 25th anniversary edition of Graceland.

And now one more: “Live in New York City,” recorded and filmed at Webster Hall on June 6. [To buy the 2 CD, one DVD package from Amazon, click here. For the Kindle download of the CD’s 20 songs, click here.] 

Is this not, you may ask, a bit much?

Glad you asked. The answer is “no,” and not just because I’m such a fan of these words and these melodies.

Here is Paul Simon, at 70, making music that is as vital and original as anything he did with Art Garfunkel or in his early solo albums. In performance, the energy astonishes. As does his sense of fun. He clearly loves being up there. The Stones may fill stadiums, but they’re an oldies band now. Paul McCartney tries, but misses. Of the giants of his generation, only Simon and Dylan and Neil Young and the younger kid, Bruce Springsteen, have angels on their shoulders.

But it’s bigger than that for me, much bigger. A guru I’m fond of says that when you aim for the highest things, only the highest things happen. I’m quite sure Paul Simon believes that his competition isn’t Mick or Bruce or Bob — it’s something far off, and you can never reach it, but dammit, you can try.

There’s alchemy in that effort. You reach and reach, your arms grow longer. You look inside, eventually your heart pumps gold. Years and years later, your good habits manifest in the form of love, enthusiasm — and continued good work.

This is a romantic view? No fooling. But consider the choice, which Simon thoughtfully distills into a phrase: So beautiful…or so what? Then watch these videos: the accomplished writer, consummate performer, pristine band. Consider the quality of the production and the filming. A lot of people involved with this project didn’t bet on “so what.”

“Live in New York City” is a master class in creativity and beauty. There can never be enough.