Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Manchester, UK - July 13-14, 2002
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From The Guardian Unlimited
by Dave Simpson
Photos by Kathy Shue


manchesteruk02-ks-v-2.jpg (11252 bytes)These are not great times for ageing pop heroes. Rod Stewart doesn't have a record deal; Mick Jagger's albums are pitiful. Neil Diamond, though, goes from strength to strength. His secret is this: Diamond's humungous songbook is at the heart of every generation of pop culture, providing hits for the Monkees in the 1960s, UB40 in the 1980s and the trendy Afghan Whigs in the 1990s (Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon, on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack). Aphex Twin and Slipknot haven't covered Diamond songs, but it is only a matter of time.
In a red diamond-studded shirt (what else?) and waiter's trousers, Diamond cuts a simple figure within a hurricane of songs, everything from I Am, I Said to a bristling Cracklin' Rosie. Red, Red Wine is almost oom-pah. I'm A Believer - with trombones, urgent chorus and 10,000 audience voices on backing vocals - sounds like a nuclear explosion. Diamond never lingers anywhere long enough to be predictable.

He occupies a tantalising space between schmaltz and sincerity, with the inevitable dollop of kitsch. He is droll - "I just thought I'd check you guys are okay," he says, as the left side of the stadium erupts as he ventures near. His monologues contain both "sensitive males" and surprisingly spicy innuendo. Contrarily, he tells a moving story about glimpsing pianos in the hallways of rich people's homes when working as a delivery boy, and sings with genuine emotion about realising dreams. With his still rakish good looks and a tremor in his singing that is, as the song says, "like a guitar hummin'", the 61-year-old has an extraordinary power over an audience of all ages. During a sublime Girl . . . he beckons a succession of women to the stage, rewarding them with lingering kisses. "It's a tough job," he sighs. Only once does his patter grate, with a cheesy dedication to the police and military: "Saving our freedom." This is not a man overly familiar with the Rodney King video, or the dark side of US foreign policy. Diamond has the simplistic worldview of someone who has spent his life immersed in song, with picturebook heroes and black-or-white values of good and bad. Then again, with songs like his, it's the only place to be.

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