Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Tampa, FL - February 16,  2002

 

ST. PETERSBURG TIMES REVIEW
Diamond all a glitter at Ice Palace
By GINA VIVINETTO, Times Pop Music Critic
St. Petersburg Times
published February 18, 2002
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TAMPA -- Neil Diamond's fans came out in force to Saturday's sold-out Ice Palace concert featuring pop music's legendary songwriter and showman. Diamond, 60, dressed in all black with shimmering sequined shirt, kicked things off with an explosive America, complete with gigantic American flag backdrop and about 17 times the bombast you already associate with that ultra-patriotic anthem.

Diamond's crowd featured folks of every age who lept to their feet, swiping for their own the singer's notoriously unfunky dance moves. Many among the more than 15,000 fans -- Diamond reported 15,982 from the stage -- clapped along to the classics Solitary Man, all punched up by strident trombone and sax, the delightful Cherry, Cherry, with Diamond strumming acoustic guitar, and Sweet Caroline.

Diamond's band was as big as his bravado, featuring 10 players, singers and a string quartet. Their onstage business added to the night's non-stop energy. It's true, what you've heard about Diamond delivering the goods in a live setting. He sings, claps and boogies with the gusto of a fellow half his age.

A songwriting icon, Diamond is responsible for dozens of pop classics, many made famous by other artists. Red, Red Wine, the tune that scored a 1980s hit by British reggae band UB40, was slowed down, treated to piano and the strains of pedal steel guitar, ending in a cheesy-but-fun island riff.

The Monkees made I'm A Believer their own back in the 1960s, but it's signature Diamond. The singer tossed his stand to the side, clutched the mike, snapping fingers with his free hand, belting out those famous lines about seeing a young woman's face and casting out any doubt about love.

It wouldn't be Diamond -- king of pop schmaltz -- had he not crooned the chorus's "I'm in love" while waving his hand across the audience. One of pop's early hearthrobs, Diamond still dazzles his female fans, proven during Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon, which found Diamond lip-locked with one young blonde who approached the stage. Those tender kisses turned into a make-out session so steamy, afterward Diamond asked the crowd for a cigarette.

"Well, that's the show tonight, folks," Diamond said, joking about being too flustered to continue. His patter throughout the night was humorous and filled with off-the-cuff stories, as well as heartfelt sentiments about our country's heroes -- the rescue workers and law enforcement in New York, and those fighting the war in Afghanistan.

Sure, Diamond's sentiments get overwrought. His bombast may obscure his simple, economic pop masterpieces. Yet, look at this former boy from Brooklyn. By concert's end, he was again singing in front of the American flag. Is Diamond not a metaphor for the country? Behind his pageantry is a whirlwind of hard work and heart.


BRADENTON HERALD REVIEW

CONCERT REVIEW - Neil Diamond lets music state his case
ROD HARMON
Herald Staff Writer

Neil Diamond has learned a thing or two from his 40-year career, and one of the most important is that you need to have a great band to put on a great show.

Diamond's concert Saturday at the Ice Palace delivered few surprises, serving up the same setlist as previous shows in his 2001-02 "Mission of Love" tour. He opened and closed with "America," led an a capella version of "Sweet Caroline" and dedicated "Captain Sunshine" to late band member Vince Charles. Even Diamond's black, sparkling outfit and stage banter were the same.

But his elaborate band, which included a string quartet, two keyboardists, a horn section and two backing vocalists in addition to the requisite drums, guitar and bass, transformed the concert into a wall of sound that would have made Phil Spector and Burt Bacharach proud. What's more, they did it without drowning out Diamond's unmistakable voice, which still resonates like whiskey being poured down a sore throat.

For two hours, the man once referred to as the "white Barry White" poured on the hits from his impressive catalogue, from 1966's "Cherry, Cherry" to songs from his new album, "Three Chord Opera." It's no wonder the guy is able to sell nearly 16,000 tickets despite not scoring a hit for nearly 20 years - he's got so many in the bag, he doesn't have to worry about it anymore.

As if to drive the point home, Diamond also reclaimed songs made famous by other artists, including the Monkees' "I'm a Believer" and UB40's "Red Red Wine," which he shifted midsong from its original acoustic dirge to the more popular reggae version. "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," which can arguably be called a Hollies song, was dedicated to America's firefighters, police officers and military personnel.

The highlight of the show was a sensual rendition of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon." Diamond picked a blonde out of the audience (it's always a blonde), and proceeded to kiss and caress her hand as he sang. Whether he planned to have the woman grab him by the neck and kiss him on the lips for a full minute is anybody's guess, but his remark of "Anybody got a cigarette?" afterward seemed to imply that he didn't.

That would make it one of the few spontaneous moments of an otherwise scripted show. What made the difference between a bad show and a good one was that Diamond and his band managed to make it seem fresh anyway.

And that, boys and girls, is what's called musicianship.


TAMPA TRIBUNE REVIEW

Diamond Shows Luster During Sold-Out Show At Tampa's Ice Palace
By CURTIS ROSS cross@tampatrib.com
Published: Feb 17, 2002

TAMPA - Forget angst, anger and art, at least the self-conscious kind. Neil Diamond offered nothing but old-fashioned entertainment for a sold-out Saturday night Ice Palace crowd of more than 15,000 (15,982, Diamond reported from the stage).
Watching Diamond banging out the opening chords of ``Cherry, Cherry'' was to be reminded that Diamond is old enough to remember when rock 'n' roll was fresh and new. Diamond conjured up memories of the Everly Brothers with the song's simple, powerful riff - those three chords have been used time and time again but seldom as well as this.

It's probably no coincidence that Elvis Presley's former drummer, Ron Tutt, anchors Diamond's 15-piece band, which was augmented by a pair of vocalists and Diamond on occasional guitar and piano.

Diamond touched on all phases of his career, from the '60s hits he wrote for himself and others through the singer-songwriter period of the late '60s and early '70s on to the balladeer era which has brought him his biggest success.

A huge American flag covered the front of the stage as the concert began, rising as the lights dimmed and an orchestral medley of his hits played over the loud speakers.

A spotlight hit center stage where Diamond stood, all in black save for the spangles on his shirt.

He began with ``America.'' Not surprisingly, the rousing anthem was greeted with wild enthusiasm.

For ``Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon,'' Diamond beckoned a woman from the audience to the lip of the stage. What began with a kissed hand accelerated into a brief make-out sessions which left Diamond asking for a cigarette.

Diamond closed in strong form with his longtime concert favorite, ``Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.''

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