In May 2007, the Library of Congress got a very impressive gathering of prime musicians together to honor Paul Simon in the first award of the Gershwin Prize for Popular Song, a sumptuous event dubbed "the greatest night of popular music ever presented in our nation's capital", and I've no doubt whatsoever that this is true, as the experience was captured with 5.1 Surround Sound and elegantly filmed. The MC was a curious choice, though—football announcer Bob Costas—but the roster of guests was not, not at all. Lyle Lovett kicks everything off with 50 Ways to Leave Your Lover, backed by what's here billed as 'Paul Simon's Band', a very grooved-in assortment of top players, including drummer Steve Gadd (yes, there are at least 4 rock drummers by the name of 'Steve Gadd', but this is the Steve Gadd).
He's followed by the dynamite trio of Alison Krause (playing violin as well as singing), Shawn Colvin, and Jerry Douglas for a rendition of The Boxer. Every so often in between songs is shown a clip from the past, events such as the Zimbabwe Graceland concert of '87, Paul's appearance on Saturday Night Live (1976, with George Harrison), and so on, adding a sense of the history in what the Library of Congress is reflecting. The tempo and styles vary, as with Stephen Marley's reggae re-do of Mother and Child Reunion or, very surprisingly, Philip Glass' piano recital of Sounds of Silence…though it might just as easily be said that Phil was upstaged by an even more unusual slot: Grover and Elmo of Sesame Street encanting The 59th Street Bridge Song (Feelin' Groovy).
The not-so-obscure object of desire, Simon himself shows up late in the concert to receive his just accolades and duet with the inimitable Ladysmith Black Mambazo, his old pard Art Garfunkel, Stevie Wonder, and the Dixie Hummingbirds, rounding out the event in a rather astonishing display of just how vital and fresh his singing voice and playing still are, having sacrificed not a molecule to the decades that have passed since he and Garfunkel hit the scene in the 60s. That, to my mind, was the most surprising element here, and it joins the very, very, very heartening re-welcoming lately given Danny O'Keefe (here) and Jesse Winchester (here), both of whom also are as good as ever…if not better. Therefore, dare we hope that this DVD is just the signal for another Simon blockbuster in the works? Let's hope so.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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