Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews
Charlotte, NC - February 23, 2002
photos by Joe Imhof
Charlotte Observer review
Old pop favorites sparkle coming from Diamond
The giant American flag covering the stage hinted at an evening of oppressive patriotism, especially with all the flag-waving at the Olympics.
Surprisingly, Neil Diamond's performance Saturday at the Charlotte Coliseum wasn't draped in stars and stripes. Despite the flags adorning the arena and women clutching flags in the audience, Diamond kept the patriotism to a minimum.
"If they say music has the power to heal, then let the healing begin," he said, after singing "America," a Top 10 hit from the 1980 movie "The Jazz Singer."
Then he took fans on a musical journey through his pop catalog, melding his Vegas-style theatrics with his lively tunes about life and love. His show was a rarity -- pop without lip-synching or aerobic dancers.
Diamond, 60, didn't break any musical ground with his performance; the audience didn't expect him to. Seeing him strut around the stage -- wearing a sparkly black shirt and black slacks -- singing "Cherry, Cherry" and pointing to the heavens a million times was enough.
The fans wanted to sing and dance the night away. He gave them plenty of opportunities, from his shouts of "Stand up for America" during "America" to the rousing "Sweet Caroline." Unlike some acts who play Charlotte, Diamond didn't have to encourage audience participation. During "Mission of Love," two women held up letters as he shouted "give me an L" to eventually spell love. At times, the near-capacity crowd out-sang him.
He performed for two hours, and his tenor sounded strong, with no opening act or intermission. His 17-piece band added to the fun. The string section, horns and percussion added orchestral treatments to his pop songs, and they playfully danced behind him.
The audience reflected Diamond's influence on pop music. Older fans who grew up with his music danced next to kids with spiked hair.
Men in leather jackets screamed as loud as the women in sparkly shirts.
Unlike many of today's younger acts, Diamond didn't banter endlessly throughout the show, but he was engaging. As an introduction to "Play Me," he talked about men being sensitive.
"There's that little part in each man out here that we hide and protect, and every woman knows how to reach it," he said. "And I don't just mean sex, but that doesn't hurt ... I do want you to remember when you take your man home, they are sensitive, so give him a little."
Although the show was a predictable jaunt through his classics, there was one surprise. Diamond got freakydeaky. It happened during "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon." Diamond walked to the edge of the stage and serenaded two women. At the end of the song, he allowed the women to kiss him.
One woman grabbed his head and locked lips as if they were in a steamy soap opera. When she finished, Neil "Mack Daddy" Diamond came back for more. Then he lay on his back and said, "Whew, I need a cigarette."
So did most of the audience. It was an impromptu moment in an otherwise well-orchestrated show that left the audience humming and dancing long after Diamond left the stage
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