Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Houston, TX - February 13, 2002



Neil Diamond glitters to an adoring audience
Copyright 2002 Houston Chronicle

Back in the '60s, Neil Diamond wrote a song about the first time he went down South.

"New York City, look at me now, I'm being stared out from behind a plow. ... People gawkin' at me, like I'm tawkin' strange. Me, I ain't much better, 'cause I'm thinking the same."

That was then.

Wednesday night was now. Fifty thousand Texas cowboys, New York expatriates and everybody and everything in between packed the Reliant Astrodome to stamp their feet and sing along with every word of Diamond's hits. He may be "New York City-born and raised," but for one cool February night in Houston, he was a singing cowboy right down to his shimmering red shirt and twangy guitar.

"I'm happy to be in this fantastic city," he said. "I've been coming to Houston since 1966. People were nice to me even then. I even got to rent a car without a credit card. I remember that."

Diamond was totally out of his element, and completely at home at the Houston Livestock Show and Rodeo.

He took his adoring crowd on a journey through his career, from such American Bandstand hits as Cherry Cherry, to love ballads like Morningside, to today's Winter Olympics welcoming song, America.

This had to be the first time he arrived on stage in a pickup truck. He opened the show with America, growling the lyrics, "Freedom's light burning strong," and adding a new line, "Stand up for America!"

Then he strapped on his guitar and got down to the business of doing his golden oldies. Kentucky Woman, Solitary Man, Red Red Wine, Sweet Caroline, Forever in Bluejeans ... the hits just kept on coming.

Diamond's hair was shorter and grayer than before, and his guitar rode a little higher on his belly, but his unmistakable gravelly voice was the same as always.

Fans hopped and bopped from homeplate to deep in homerun territory. Midway through the show, he'd had enough of the rotating stage. "I wish I could get off this thing. I think I'm going to throw up in a minute," he joked.

He hopped off the stage and walked across the dirt floor to high-five the guys and hug the ladies in the stands.

"I'd kiss you, darling, but your lipstick clashes with my shirt," Diamond told one woman who looked like she was about to faint.

He pulled a leather-clad hottie out of the crowd and serenaded her with Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon. They danced real slow and she pinned him against the pickup truck.

For a New York boy, Diamond was doing all right deep in the heart of Texas.

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