Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Providence, RI - March 6, 2002


Diamond's golden oldies hit with fans

Journal Pop Music Writer

PROVIDENCE -- A rock star's tug on popular culture is cemented when his hits are remade as new hits for dance clubs and movie soundtracks. Or star power is reflected in the patience of a sold-out crowd last night at the Dunkin' Donuts Center. The crowd endured a few tepid new songs from Neil Diamond's new album, last year's Three Chord Opera, to hear Diamond sing from his crate of hits in a hard-working two-hour show.

Diamond took the stage with the pageantry of a pop star who released his first album in '66: a large American flag that concealed the stage was raised, and there Diamond stood. He launched into "America" and the opening image and song -- "Free! We want to be free" -- of course held populist appeal.

Diamond performed a set list of ballads that explored the happiness that we seek or, he hopes, long ago found. "We're on a mission of love tonight," he said from the stage before "A Mission of Love," the strongest of his new songs. "We're gonna need your help."

He proved a steady, if familiar, guide; here is a performer who percolates with assuredness. The finesse has abandoned his midrange -- Diamond mostly delivered the vocals gravel-voice style, or lets the voices of the crowd and backup singers surround him. But the swivel in his hips remains solid gold.

For "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" -- a song remade by rockers Urge Overkill for the Pulp Fiction movie soundtrack -- he laid out on the stage to serenade a woman in the front row. She thanked him with a kiss.

The best songs went the opposite way -- Diamond plus the sincerity, minus the showmanship. For "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," the closer, he stood at center stage and stripped rock down to its bold, declarative gospel core.

He played the "Solitary Man" solo with acoustic guitar, and the song was impeccably lonesome.

His enthusiasm overcame the weightlessness of his band -- a four-piece string section, drummer and percussionist, four-piece horns, keyboardist, guitarists, a bassist and backup singers -- that performed with generic precision.

Still, Diamond had a way with those songs, "Red, Red Wine," "I'm A Believer," "If You Know What I Mean," "Beautiful Noise," "Forever in Blue Jeans." "Sweet Caroline" was so good Diamond played it all the way through. Then he played it again. I wouldn't have minded hearing it a third time.

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