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Ghost Canyon

Title - 'Live in New York City' [2 CD/DVD]
Artist - Paul Simon

Paul Simon's music has been a part of my generation's life for so long that it's possible that he's taken for granted by some. This magnificent collection of songs, none from what I consider his lovely, though musically immature, S&G period - save for an obligatory 'Sounds Of Silence' and the resurrected 'Only Living Boy From New York' - stands as a testetament to Simon as songwriter.

The songs included in this concert rank with Simon's best, particularly those from So Beautiful or So What. 'Dazzling Blue' is an exquisite gem, and 'The Afterlife' retains its vitality and witty rhythmic wordplay ("Hey, what you say, it's a glorious day - by the way how long you been dead? Maybe you maybe me maybe baby makes three but she just shook her head.") I mean, er, ... what? But yes, just glorious verbal imagary, as expected.

The 'Obvious Child' kicks things off with a slower tempo than the original - bringing a sense of majesty to its powerful rhythmic foundation. No slowdown for 'That Was Your Mother' - it remains joyful, and its shufflin' Cajun rhythm will still make you jump up and dance. And its during this song - the sixth on the CDs - that the band gels into a groove and really comes alive. 'Slip Slidin' Away' has more poignancy now that our generation is in its fifth or sixth decade.

That all said, most of the set Simon seems uber focused on a) not relying on his S&G past too much, and b) not allowing himself to be pigeonholed as a "soft-spoken acoustic singer/songwriter," which is probably still how much of America thinks of him. He seems eager to present himself as musically alert and vibrant. And he succeeds.

Ahh, but it should be noted that Simon still seems to be thoroughly enjoying himself - something not to be taken for granted. Never a dynamic performer who seeks to ingratiate himself with his audience (i.e., the You're The One DVD) Simon relies on the music itself to do that. In this show Simon seems happy and more than comfortable on stage. As well he should be - his band remains an extraordinary ensemble who do justice to the quality of the music they are presenting.

If you are an old fan you will love hearing the Graceland songs, 'Kodachrome,' and 'Still Crazy After all These Years' - songs that have retained their beauty and have gained "classic" status. If you are relative new to Simon's recent work you are in for a treat. This is mature popular music in the finest sense of the word. Simon's craftsmanship never quite leads your ear to expected places, and his lyrics are smart, witty, and meaningful.