Neil Diamond 2001-2003 Concert
Reviews / Photos
New Orleans, LA - September 5, 2002
The New OreansTIMES-PICAYUNE REVIEW
In all his schmaltzy glory, Neil Diamond shines in tour kickoff
All phases of enduring career touched upon
By Keith Spera
Music critic/The Times-Picayune
Will Ferrell's "Saturday Night Live" impersonation of Neil Diamond
codifies the singer's trademarks: The measured baritone. The long stare.
The heartfelt tapping of the chest. The slow nod coupled with a joyful
grimace. An arm held aloft, hand extended, in acknowledgment of and
tribute to his adoring fans.
All were in ample supply Thursday night when Diamond kicked off his fall
North American tour at New Orleans Arena. Nearly 40 years into his career,
he is the Las Vegas Bruce Springsteen, a populist wordsmith who thrives on
grand gestures delivered with a shtick worthy of Wayne Newton. Consider
his sequined top, slow-blown kisses and lounge-lizard banter. "Our show is
real simple," he said. "You are the squeaky door, I am the lubrication."
However he may choose to present himself, Diamond, 61, has proven
remarkably enduring. That he has not been exiled to Vegas or Branson, Mo.,
is testament to the breadth and appeal of his catalog. From the late 1960s
through the 1970s, he was among the most popular singer-songwriters on the
planet, and he has consistently filled arenas ever since with multiple
generations of fans. On Thursday he treated those fans to a generous
two-hour-and-15-minute set that sampled liberally from all phases of his
The giant American flag that served as a stage curtain rose to reveal
Diamond and a 17-piece ensemble that included a string quartet and four
horns. They opened with "America," which felt surprisingly perfunctory, as
did "Forever in Blue Jeans" later in the set. Diamond and the band came
alive during a spry suite of early hits, including "Solitary Man," "The
Boat That I Row" and "Cherry, Cherry."
Elsewhere, the four horns punched up the chorus of "I'm a Believer." The
ensemble navigated the first half of "Red, Red Wine" as a country-tinged
ballad, the way Diamond originally wrote it, then finished with a
quickened tempo reminiscent of UB40's remake. "Holly Holy" and "Soolaimon"
unfolded with all their requisite drama.
Diamond's baritone is still in good shape and can still sell such
well-worn melodies as "Play Me." Of the smattering of songs showcased from
his most recent release, "Three Chord Opera," the strongest was the ballad
"I Haven't Played This Song in Years."
Trimming four or so songs would have tightened the set, but the show was
more satisfying than Diamond's previous New Orleans appearance, in 1996.
This time out, he accompanied himself on piano onstage, a welcome
Although his shaggy mane is long gone, he still fancies himself the
brooding romantic. He made a great show of kissing a woman's hand, first
on his knees and then lounging on his side, as he serenaded her with
"Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon." After a monologue devoted to the "delicate
parts" of men, Diamond addressed the women in the house. "When you take
(men) home to your beds, when you've given them all they desire, give them
a little more," he said. "For the hell of it. For practice. Why not?"
This stage persona is presumably a facade, masking the complicated
personality that invests so many compositions with melancholy. During the
final encore of "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," a pair of
spotlights cast two enormous silhouettes of the singer against the arena's
rear wall. It was an appropriate image, for here was a solitary man who
has created an outsized persona and body of work. Diamond is still able to
bear its weight.
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