NEW YORK: few performers given me as much personal pleasure as Paul Simon, and his appearance at Madison Square Garden, albeit brief one by his standards, was no exception. Ever the perfectionist , Simon unlike most artists, managed to overcome the dreadful acoustical problem of the giant arena and transform the· building into his living room.
The concert was a benefit for the New York Library, organised by Simon and New York promoter Ron Delsener, and also featured Phoebe Snow, Jimmy Cliff and the Brecker Brothers.
Simon appeared with the same band as on his last US tour, made up from the cream of the New York session set, and concentrated on material from his ´Still Crazy´ album. As usual, it was note perfect, although engineer Phil Ramone´s work at the mixing desk deserves credit.
After looking back to ´The Boxer´, Paul Simon brought on the Jesse Dixon Singers for gospel variations of his songs and then shared the spotlight with Phoebe Snow on ´Gone At Last´. Phoebe, of course, sang on the recorded version of that·song and their live coupling was magical. It was intended to be the last number, but the audience reaction altered that, and Simon was willing to oblige.
He returned solo for moving rendition of ´ American Tune.´, his personal favourite, and returned again for an equally emotional solo version of ´Bridge Over·Troubled Water´ which, somehow segued into ´Me and Julio´. By this time the whole audience was on its feet, clapping and singing, with Simon leading the choir like a conductor.
Earlier, Phoebe Snow had put over a warm, light but jazzy set that showed off her extraordinary range of notes to best advantage and Jimmy Cliff served up a dose of reggae that was equally warmly received. Cliff is an energetic performer whose standing here has been greatly enhanced by the movie ´The Harder They Come´. Songs like ´You can get it if You Really Want´ and ´Wonderful World, Beautiful People´ laid a foundation to the evening that the Brecker Brothers somehow failed to do. Jazz, heavily accentuated with brass lines, somehow doesn´t work in the atmosphere of Madison Square.