Neil Diamond 2001-2003 Concert Reviews / Photos

Memphis, TN - September 8, 2002

Diamond still dazzles with collection of timeless gems


By Donnie Snow
September 9, 2002

Some songwriters pen pieces to fit the moment, some write ditties to stick in your head, and some write anthems to pull out and parade at times of glory or gloom.

Neil Young fits the first like Spandex, McCartney and Lennon are the standard bearers for the second and the last, unfairly, is a category for the likes of Neil Diamond.

Unfair, because since the tragedy of Sept. 11, Diamond's America, which opened his show Sunday night before an estimated 12,000 at The Pyramid, overshadows the prolific songwriter's gem-filled catalog.

"We're on a mission of love tonight," Diamond shouted into his microphone to a standing ovation after America, an anthem he wrote for his immigrant grandparents.

More than a vibe-setter, his declaration was a segue into A Mission of Love, off last year's "Three Chord Opera."

Diamond, sparkling in all black and sequins, still wields a caramel-soft smoky voice that melts through fan faves like Hello Again.

Critics might not care much for his songs, which are still unfortunately overproduced to Andrew Lloyd Webber proportions, but fans couldn't care less what critics think.

And neither could Diamond, apparently.

Here's an indication of just how long he's been making hits: The feel-good groover, whose Cherry, Cherry had his formally dressed string quartet dancing and clapping, announced he wanted to sing a few "oldies" after he finished that oh-so-modern hit, Love on the Rocks, from 1980's The Jazz Singer.

Diamond's show is a mammoth production on the Las Vegas level. He's one of those performers whose material has become a sentimental favorite for popular culture to incorporate or cover.

Being the great sport he is, Diamond obliges, evidenced when he sang Red, Red Wine. He broke into a reggae style for the ending, a nod to UB40's Brit-reggae cover of the hit.

Setting up his waltzing hit Play Me, where he cheekily asked if there were any sensitive males in the audience, it became obvious Diamond gets the whole uncool-yet-still-a-superstar thing.

And if you think he's too old or too sensitive to rock, just ask yourself where would Uma Thurman's character in Pulp Fiction be without Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon? Ever the showman, he stepped into the first few rows to sing this to an unsuspecting woman.

And just how sad would drunken college girls be if they didn't have Sweet Caroline to sing along to just before last call?

You know, he wrote that in Memphis - on a whim. Now if that's not cool, what is?


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