Let me issue the warning first. If you are a Paul Simon fan, the music presented here was issued in 2003 on a previous DVD titled, Live At The Tower Theatre. Nowhere on the Live From Philadelphia DVD package or in the promotional material is this fact mentioned.
While most people would not want to purchase the same concert material twice, if you do not own the Tower disc you'll find that the choice of many songs and their presentation are very different from the normal Paul Simon live fare. Plus, he is backed by one of the best bands of his career.
In 1980 Paul Simon was touring in support of his One Trick Pony album. He is backed by drummer Steve Gadd, bassist Tony Levin, keyboardist Richard Tee, and more importantly guitarist extraordinaire Eric Gale. This was the group of musicians who supported him on the album and they are a very tight unit. All but Levin played together in the group Stuff for a number of years. The interaction between Simon and Gale is interesting and ultimately brilliant. Simon plays the rhythm part on the songs and literally could have performed without any other accompaniment. Gale just improvises against this basic sound being laid down by Simon. In some ways this becomes an Eric Gale concert as well. If you are a fan of this late, great guitarist, then this performance is a must.
The set presented on the DVD is short at eleven songs and just under 55 minutes. Paul Simon is in fine vocal form and appears relaxed (and young). It’s nice to see him not surrounded by a multitude of back-up singers and musicians.
Four songs from his One Trick Pony album are performed. The rarely heard “Ace In The Hole” and “Jonah” are given a funky feel. “One Trick Pony” has some wonderful interplay between the bass and Gale’s guitar. Paul Simon’s big hit at the time, “Late In The Evening," is given a straightforward outing.
Another rarely performed song, “Something So Right,” features some more clean and understated picking by Gale. “Still Crazy After All These Years” has a wonderful jazz feel.
Homage is paid to his Simon & Garfunkel days as the concert closes with “The Boxer” and “The Sounds Of Silence.” While these songs are two of the most over played in their catalogue, Simon gives them freshness.
Live From Philadelphia is a nice relic from the past as it presents Paul Simon at his best.