Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Austin, TX - February 12, 2002

 

AUSTIN AMERICAN-STATESMAN REVIEW

Glitzy Diamond connects with his crowd of believers
By Michael Corcoran

American-Statesman Staff

Wednesday, February 13, 2002

He's a rock star for those who don't go to rock concerts, a glittery purple dinosaur for the early bird special set.

He hasn't had a smash in decades, and his voice sounds like a car trying to start on a cold morning. But as a near sellout crowd of just over 11,000 Tuesday night at the Erwin Center knows, something special happens when Neil Diamond comes out on stage.

He's an entertainer with a capital E, one of those geniuses at embracing the expected, connecting with a crowd with an uncanny telepathy. When Diamond gazed out into entire sections, you can be sure that almost all of them thought his eyes were locked right on theirs. Such was his hypnotic power.

The words of songs he's performed hundreds, thousands of times, such as "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," "Play Me" and "Soolaimon" didn't seem to come out of his mouth until he had properly weighed them.

Even when he harked back to his pre-pop-messiah days, strapping on a black acoustic for catchy ditties such as "I'm a Believer," "Cherry Cherry" and "Red Red Wine" early in the chronologically paced show, Diamond didn't toss them off like medley fodder.

His glad-handing stage patter ("If music has the power to heal, let the healing begin" to introduce "Solitary Man" and "There's no place like Texas" after polite response to the fairly dreadful new "A Mission of Love") is often parodied by hipsters. But the monotonic musings of this Caruso of the schmooze, this Hemingway of earnestness, came off as heartfelt.

In musical parlance, a cult audience is a small yet fanatical group of followers. But even as they filled a huge arena, what other way can you describe a Neil Diamond crowd? They held up signs, sang along with abandon and worshipped every motion and emotion that came from the man who's such an embodiment of showbiz glitz that it seems almost impossible that Neil Diamond is his real name.

But it's obvious that he was born to this calling.

To open the show, he just stood there at center stage, smiling, and the crowd went crazy. He could've done anything, and they would've eaten it up. But Diamond performed as if this were an audience he had to win over.

His mission had a couple missteps in the beginning, including a show-opening "America" that was almost surreal in its lack of energy. This date with Diamond had some awkward moments that tested the allegiance of an assembly that came to belt out "Sweet Caroline" and "Cracklin' Rosie."

Every song was a one-man play, which made for a presentation that was dramatic and overwrought at times.

But that's what the Cult of Neil came for. They were in the hands of Brother Love and they felt giddy and safe

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