Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Pittsburgh, PA - February 25, 2002


Concert Review: Neil Diamond relies on old hits to keep audience happy

Tuesday, February 26, 2002

By John Hayes, Post-Gazette Staff Writer

It's hard to go wrong when you've got good material. Neil Diamond has never rated high on the "hip quotient," even during his early days when lesser songwriters were scoring hits with his stuff. But the guy is a master craftsman, bending his songs into tight hooks and polishing them to a razor's edge.

Last night at Mellon Arena, Diamond showed up looking younger, healthier and more vibrant than he has in years. Although he's touring his first collection of new songs since the mid-'90s, Diamond spent much of his stage time browsing through the archives instead of retracing some of his newer, saccharine-sweet ballads. The recent release of several greatest hits collections may have had something to do with the set list, or maybe Diamond just reads his audience like a book.

Diamond's famous deep, sultry rasp started as a croak as a huge American flag was raised to reveal him and his 17-piece band chugging through his proudly patriotic "America." In time, the frog in his throat was replaced with that familiar, dynamic vocal range.

After pumping the crowd of some 15,000 with compliments, Diamond delivered them with a long string of hits from his early singer-songwriter period. "Cherry Cherry" is still edgy and suggestive and "Red, Red Wine" wailed with a new and improved reggae arrangement, inspired by UB40's cover of the song.

On "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," Diamond knelt at the edge of the stage and crooned to a blushing young woman from the first row. He beckoned her closer and kissed her hand, ending the song lying prostate on the stage and kissing her deeply. Just when Diamond's exaggerated poses and planned banter started to seem contrived, mechanical and rehearsed, he'd pull out something like "Holly Holy," which grabbed the audience by the throat and squeezed out a dangerous bass line.

Diamond dedicated a rare cover, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," to the firefighters, police and military personnel whom he called "America's most recent heroes."

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