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Published: 2008/12/03
by Brian Ferdman

Paul Simon Live From Philadelphia

Eagle Rock GHL 37042-9

Recorded in 1980, Paul Simon’s Live From Philadelphia showcases the famed singer-guitarist backed by a very impressive band. Between Tony Levin’s slapping bass, Richard Tee’s nimble keyboards, and Steve Gadd’s syncopated drums, the rhythm section lays down very funky beats for a ripping take on “Ace In the Hole,” as well as classics, such as “Fifty Ways To Leave Your Lover” and “Late In the Evening.” Lead guitarist Eric Gale more than earns his keep by accenting Simon’s strumming with smooth riffs that fall somewhere between jazzy blues and airy West African music. A horn section, which is unannounced, aside from saxophonist George Young, is also on board. These horns add much depth to the funkier numbers, but they also occasionally team with Tee’s rounded, dreamy glissandos to add the nauseatingly breezy and wistful sounds that make the smooth pop of the late 1970s and early 1980s the butt of so many jokes. Of course, such arrangements were all the rage in 1980, so a song like “Jonah” now sounds like a time capsule that you wish was never unearthed.

Naturally, the star of this show is Simon, and the singer appears to be rather at ease in front of this crowd, joking and interacting with the audience and even involving the cameramen in the act. For the most part, his voice is in fine form, gently lilting through his more emotive lyrics and then ripping into the grittier phrases. While his solo rendition of “The Sound of Silence” practically screams for Art Garfunkel’s assistance, the aforementioned “Late In the Evening” jubilantly bursts forth, and a slightly reworked turn on “The Boxer” evokes a fragility that matches its lyrical message.

Although I’ve never seen it before, this release appears to be a re-issue of Simon’s Live at the Tower Theatre, and besides the misleading title (the Tower Theatre is actually in Upper Darby) and the cover, nothing on the package indicates there is anything different in this new version when compared to its predecessor. At the very least, it would have been nice had this release expanded on the concert’s pithy 53 minutes, but if the objective of a good performance is to leave the audience wanting more, Paul Simon – Live From Philadelphia certainly achieves that goal.

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