Personnel: Paul Simon (vocals, guitar); Tony Cedras (vocals, guitar, accordion, trumpet, keyboards); Mark Stewart (vocals, guitar, saxophone); Jim Oblon (vocals, guitar, drums); Vincent Nguini (vocals, guitar); Bakithi Kumalo (vocals, percussion); Andy Snitzer (flute, saxophone, synthesizer, glockenspiel); Mick Rossi (piano, harmonium, percussion); Jamey Haddad (percussion).
Audio Mixers: Andy Smith; Phil Ramone.
Director: Martyn Atkins.
Editor: Fernando Villena.
Photographers: Geoff Gans; Mary Ellen Mathews.
When it came time to cut a live album documenting his supporting tour for his excellent 2011 album So Beautiful or So What, Paul Simon did what he always does: he set up shop in his hometown of New York City. Previously, he -- either with or without Art Garfunkel -- released albums recorded at massive venues like Madison Square Garden or Central Park, but Hear Music's 2012 Live in New York City -- available either as a two-CD/one-DVD set or simply as a double CD or single DVD -- was recorded at the comparatively intimate Webster Hall and, appropriately enough, the performance feels comparatively cozy, Simon striking just the right blend of playing for himself and playing for the audience. He showcases a nice chunk of So Beautiful or So What -- "Dazzling Blue," "So Beautiful or So What," "Rewrite," "The Afterlife," roughly half of the album -- and about half of Graceland, often opting for album tracks over hits (no "You Can Call Me Al" or "Graceland," but "That Was Your Mother" and "Gumboots" both make the cut), and when he does dip into such standards as "50 Ways to Leave Your Lover," "Mother and Child Reunion," "Slip Slidin' Away," and "Still Crazy," he finds subtle little ways to inject a bit of groove into their well-worn contours. Simon is pleasing the crowd without pandering, and he winds up with a live album that's lively, slightly surprising, warm, and undeniably fun. ~ Stephen Thomas Erlewine