Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Nottingham, UK - July 23, 2002

SCHMALTZ CAN'T TARNISH DIAMOND
From the Nottingham Evening Post

Expectations were high. This, after all, was one of a rare breed: the American superstar making a debut in the city.

Expectations turned to a threatening "he'd better be good" after the 50-minute journey in the car from just two miles out of the city (where are all the car parks?).

To be fair, once inside the Arena all frustrations subsided as Neil delivered to a crowd of surprisingly mixed ages. I was expecting a WI spread of grey.

Of course, there was the schmaltz. Oh, the schmaltz.

Fans were greeted with a stage-dressed Stars and Stripes as they entered the Arena, raised to reveal his opening rouser America.

September 11 changed America, he would tell us.

No longer were sportsmen and women and rock and pop stars the heroes but the police, the fire service, the armed forces. So says a multi-millionaire stood in front of 9,000 adoring fans each having paid up to 45 to see their hero upon his pedastal.

Despite the schmaltz - Americans, bless 'em, can't help themselves - this was a hell of a show from one of the world's most accomplished songwriters.

Hello Again Hello, Love On The Rocks, I Am I Said, Forever In Blue Jeans and his anthem Sweet Caroline (three times back-to-back thanks to a persistent crowd) the veteran New Yorker proved his worth.

He can certainly throw a melody together.

Then there were the songs he wrote that lesser mortals would hit with: I"m A Believer for the Monkees and the UB40 butchered Red Red Wine among them.

During Girl You"ll Be A Woman Soon, a hit for Urge Overkill after it was included on the Pulp Fiction soundtrack, he gave a woman on the front row a full on kiss. On the mouth. Urgh! Then said to her husband "She's ready for you now." Sauce.

It was typical of a man in control of his audience.

The 17-piece backing band, including brass section and string quartet, gave ample support to the Diamond geezer's velvet growl as he played the crowd like the professional he is for two-and-a-half hours.

It becomes apparent that he is a classic balladeer. Tracks from his latest album Three Chord Opera show he still has the ability to pen a classic slowey.

And he obviously loves it - after 115 million album sales where"s the motivation to continue beyond the adrenalin rush of an audience?

The highlights for me are when the cracks show.

When a flash goes off in the audience he turns to his security and signals where the perpretrator is sitting.

As you are wondering "does it matter that someone wants to get a souvenir pic?" his people swoop on an unsuspecting fan.

And during You Don't Bring Me Flowers, the hit he enjoyed with Barbra Streisand 20-something years ago which on stage he duets with his backing singer Linda Price, I am overcome with a surreal thought: he looks like Alan Partridge.

She looks like Maggie Philbin. And I'm sure the drummer is Santa Claus.

Hello?... what are they putting in this ale?

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