Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Atlantic City, NJ - March 16, 2002
Concert Photos by Shelley Beckwith

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poster.jpg (15941 bytes)PRESS OF ATLANTIC CITY REVIEW

March 18, 2002

Neil Diamond brings his best to A.C. crowd

ATLANTIC CITY - There is a reason why Neil Diamond has sold more than 115 million records and, at 61 years old, still only plays arenas to accommodate his legion of fans: He's a hell of a performer.

That was abundantly clear Saturday night at Boardwalk Hall, as Diamond returned to the city for the first time in 18 years in a concert event sponsored by Park Place Entertainment.

Diamond, dressed in a sequined black shirt with black slacks, performed like a personal jukebox, belting out hit after hit for nearly two hours. By the time the energetic Diamond was finished, he offered up about two dozen songs to a near-capacity crowd of much more than 13,000.

Backed by an impressive 16-piece band - including an energetic four-woman string section, a terrific four-man horn section and two backup singers - Diamond emerged from behind a humongous American flag to open with the patriotic "America," which had the crowd on its feet.

1.jpg (8146 bytes)Although Diamond's fan base is the over-40 crowd, his performance was impressive no matter your age, as he strolled across the stage, telling stories between songs and even chatting with audience members.

One of the evening's highlights included Diamond calling a woman up to the stage, where, laying on his side, he sang the romantic "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," which he concluded by giving the woman a kiss on the lips.

"Does anybody have a cigarette out there?" he joked after the song.

Diamond is one of those performers who can shock you with his set list.

He is such a great songwriter that casual fans might not be aware that he wrote big hits for other bands.

So he performed those, too, including "Red, Red Wine," popularized by UB40, and "I'm a Believer," perhaps the Monkees' most recognizable song.

But Diamond offered up plenty of tunes that he popularized himself, including "Missions of Love," the slow, sultry "Solitary Man" and "Play Me," and the rocking crowd favorites "Cherry, Cherry" "Holly Holy" and "Forever in Blue Jeans."

5.jpg (18141 bytes)The crowd erupted when Diamond broke into his signature song "Sweet Caroline" as he encouraged them to sing along. Trust me, he really didn't have to ask.

There were some lackluster moments, however. The songs from his latest album "Three Chord Opera" - "I Haven't Played This Song for Years" and "You Are the Best Part of Me" - were relatively unspectacular.

And his duet, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," fell flat as one of his backup singers fell far short of Barbra Streisand's memorable rendition with Diamond.

Also, the end of his set list was ballad heavy, leaving the audience with a mellow taste in their mouths leaving Boardwalk Hall.

Nonetheless, Diamond is a superb singer/songwriter with a voice so deep and powerful that it seems he even has trouble reigning it in. This is a Diamond that still sparkles.

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Sunday, March 17, 2002

Diamond gives fans what they want

Courier-Post Staff
2.jpg (12684 bytes)Say what you will about Neil Diamond. There's no denying he knows exactly what his audience wants, and that's he's only to happy to provide it. That's why Diamond's Saturday night concert at Atlantic City's Boardwalk Hall was such a familiar affair.

Much to the delight of the more than 15,000 fans who packed the auditorium, the 61-year-old singer-composer hewed closely to his time-tested recipes. In doing so, he conjured two hours' worth of familiar and grabby songs slathered with heaping helpings of old-time show business schmaltz and guaranteed to press all of the right buttons.

Actually, Saturday's show found a slightly less heavy-handed Diamond than has been seen on previous tours, although the show's two opening numbers - a lay-it-on-thick rendition of "Coming to America" complete with unfurled flags and a galloping wall of martial sound, and a sugary "A Mission of Love" - were ominous omens.

But the typically overwrought "Coming to America" and its follow-up soon enough gave way to a segment that showcased Diamond's 1960s heyday as a master pop-rock confectioner. Such songs as "Solitary Man," "Cherry Cherry," "Red, Red Wine" and the particularly snappy "I'm A Believer" (which Diamond penned for The Monkees), were quite refreshing, and resulted in the evening's best sequence.

hadley.jpg (9088 bytes)This newfound lighter touch was most becoming but, alas, short-lived. Diamond inevitably returned to his bombastic home base. Of course, the crowd was thrilled to have him there, and responded heartily to a number of needlessly enhanced exercises.

Among them were "Beautiful Noise," a peppy polka beat overdressed by bleating horns and the lilting strains of the string quartet made up of young, attractive female musicians. Another was "You Are the Best Part Of Me," a sappy ballad from his latest LP, "Three-Chord Opera," which was saddled with equally cloying melody and lyrics.

And let us not forget the obligatory rendition of the ultra-icky "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," which featured back-up singer Linda Press taking Barbara Streisand's part, and which was delivered with all of the lump-in-the-throat emotion the tune demands..

In addition, Diamond, whose show was his first in Atlantic City since 1984, repeatedly reached into his bag of old show business tricks to earn the crowd's approval.

3.jpg (14325 bytes)Besides the unabashed appeal to patriotism of "Coming to America," there was his reading of "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon," which he sang perched on one knee while gazing intently into the eyes of a woman from the front row. And he dedicated The Hollies' 1970 hymn, "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother," to the domestic and military heroes of the post-9/11 era.

You'd be mistaken to think the audience didn't love every manipulative minute.

Despite these frequent forays into Schlock City, Saturday's show was often quite entertaining. Diamond's cheesiness was usually rendered with such a complete lack of self-consciousness as to make him somewhat endearing. And there's no question the singer's throaty baritone has lost little in the past 35 or so years, and remains one of the most potent weapons in the pop arsenal.

In all, it was well-received superstar turn by an artist who knows his audience better than most.

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