Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews
Wilkes Barre, PA March 3-4, 2002
Photos by Shelley Beckwith
TIMES LEADER REVIEW
Diamond delivers good night of music, again
The Jazz Singer performed a few tunes from his latest album and many classics before a full house at the First Union Arena.
By ALAN K. STOUT
WILKES-BARRE TWP. - As a young and unknown musician, Neil Diamond began playing the Wilkes-Barre area in the mid-1960s. In 1999, he became the first national recording artist to perform at the First Union Arena, where he quickly sold out two shows.
On Sunday, the glitzy singer returned to the region for the first of two more shows at the First Union Arena and again delivered an enjoyable evening of music before the crowd of 8,500.
Diamond, dressed in all black, opened his show with "America" as American flags descended from the rafters over the stage. As always, he displayed a warm rapport with the audience.
"Thank you, Wilkes-Barre!" he shouted."We are happy to be back here. I go way back with this city."
"Solitary Man," "Cherry, Cherry" and "Red, Red Wine" were other early highlights, and though Diamond's voice was a bit froggy and even too raspy through the first few numbers, by the time he offered songs such as "I'm a Believer" and a beautiful rendition of "Play Me," he was in fine vocal form.
Diamond serenaded a female audience member during "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" and offered a few mid-tempoed numbers from his latest LP, "Three Chord Opera." A fun performance of "Forever In Blue Jeans" brought the crowd to its feet, and Diamond dedicated "Captain Sunshine" to the memory of a longtime band member who recently passed away. He also dedicated "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" to firefighters, police officers and military personnel associated with the events of Sept. 11.
Diamond's 17-piece band, which included everything from strings to brass, was polished and solid, and his duet of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" with one of his female backing vocalists was one of the highlights of the show.
The concert ended with "I Am ... I Said," and encores included "Cracklin' Rose" and an "America" reprise.
Will Diamond be back to Wilkes-Barre in a few years?
Will he again play to packed houses?
Will it again be a good night of music?
Based on the singer's track record, there's no reason to think otherwise.
CITIZENS' VOICE REVIEW
Neil Diamond sparkles at arena
By Al Choman, Citizens' Voice Music Critic March 04, 2002
Neil Diamond owns this town. Not literally, of course, but musically. This is his town.
Ever since he packed the fans in at Sans Souci Park in Hanover Township more years ago than even he'd like to admit, Diamond has consistently sold well in area record stores and his concert stops are legendary, including, of course, inaugurating the First Union Arena in 1999.
Diamond's music transcends time effortlessly, and in every decade in which he's recorded, he reaches a new audience of listeners to join ranks with his swollen legion of fans.
Sunday evening's sold-out concert, the first of two consecutive night shows at the First Union Arena, was a polished, well-rehearsed gem that sparkled from beginning to end. To some, it could have even been a little bit too rehearsed and not at all spontaneous. But not to many.
While the crowd was dominated by boomers for the most part, the few younger fans in attendance all agreed that there's just something about Diamond's songs that gets their attention.
Aside from some minor sound problems with his board operators (not the arena), the concert was near flawless in presentation. Occasionally, Diamond's vocals seemed muddied by virtue of a poor mix.
The concert playlist itself, however, was cleverly thought out and seemed perfectly programmed from the start.
A huge American flag, which draped the stage prior to the show, gently rose to the rafters revealing Diamond ascending to a roaring audience amid a shower of bright lights while the opening notes of "America" rang out. The song proved thematic for the evening's tone.
Backed by a 15-piece orchestra and two superb vocalists, Diamond glided effortlessly through a playlist of songs that has helped maintain his artistic stature and selling power in five different decades.
"Solitary Man," "Red, Red Wine," "I Am ... I Said," "Sweet Caroline," "Cherry, Cherry" and "Daydream Believer" had people dancing in the aisles, tapping their feet and singing along. Diamond proved a consummate showman throughout his two-hour performance.
Diamond also revealed his crooning, sensitive side during "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" as he gave one woman from the front row a concert for one that she's not likely to soon forget. Diamond finished by giving the woman a kiss, and as he got up from lying down at the foot of the stage, asked, "Does anyone here have a cigarette?"
The honorable Mayors Doherty, Kuren and McGroarty should get some bronzed keys to their towns ready for tonight. Not that Diamond would really need them - he already owns most of the hearts.
Neil Diamond repeats his show tonight at First Union Arena beginning at 8 p.m. For ticket information, call the arena box office or any Ticketmaster location.
ŠThe Citizens Voice 2002
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