Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Hartford, CT - March 6, 2002
Photos by Shelley Beckwith

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Diamond Mixes Patriotic Theme With Solid Old Hits
March 8, 2002
By ROGER CATLIN, Courant Rock Critic

3.jpg (17930 bytes)Neil Diamond's shows are always spangly, thanks to his wardrobe choices.

So it's no surprise that the post-9/11 version of his concerts should be star-spangled as well.

A two-story American flag hung in front of the stage to begin the two-hour, sold-out show at the Hartford Civic Center Thursday.

His own "America" started and closed the show in a reprise. He saluted the heroes of the day with a cover of the Hollies' "He Ain't Heavy He's My Brother" (which he sent to No. 20 in his own version 32 years ago).

And it was probably no accident that he ended the encores with the positive messages of "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" - with the preaching parts coming from a pedestal 5 feet high.

Otherwise, it was mostly a normal Neil Diamond concert - which is to say, the same blend of ideals and schmaltz that made America what it is - a place where a former Tin Pan Alley tunesmith can grow up and be the 61-year-old sex symbol who lies on his back and fends off middle-aged women as he croons, "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon."

With his reedy vibrato turning gruff at the edges, Diamond in his spangly red shirt and diminished hairline, seemed in good shape. Minus the stage in the round on which he's performed for years, he was doing less running around, and thus, seemed to be perspiring less. The fact that he and his band were on one fixed stage on one end of the arena added some focus to the presentation as well.

wlindapress.jpg (16653 bytes)There were a lot of people on board; in addition to a six-piece band helmed by former Elvis drummer Ronnie Tutt, there was a pair of backup singers, a four-piece horn section and a four-piece string section that doubled as a go-go dance section (on songs that did not require strings).

The Diamond show, a winner for 30 years straight, has adjusted to scramble around the decades-old hits with a few of the latest songs from his recent "Three Chord Opera" album, solid little tunes that have a long way to go to engender the kind of affection his oldies get from the crowd.

For the first time, he played piano on a song as well as just a little bit of guitar on some of the oldies early in the show - "Solitary Man" and "Cherry Cherry."

piano.jpg (11542 bytes)He ran through "Red, Red Wine" in a country version closer to his original before redoing it as the reggae hit it became for UB40. He tore through his "I'm a Believer" without mentioning its use in "Shrek" (lest he invite ogre comparisons?).

One touching moment, despite all the bombast, was singing "Captain Sunshine" in memory of his longtime steel drummer Vince Charles, who died last year.

With no opening act and no intermission, it led to some wild pacing, with massive celebration followed by obscure balladry and back again.

But folks knew largely what they were in for, knowing when to insert the right vocal asides in "Sweet Caroline" and not acting surprised at all when he played the whole thing twice.

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