Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Boston, MA October 2-3, 2001

 

Diamond's gems keep fans happy
From the Boston Herald - Please visit their website!

by Dean Johnson

Wednesday, October 3, 2001

Neil Diamond at the FleetCenter last night and tonight.

There was no need to wonder what the initial mood would be at last night's sold-out Neil Diamond concert at the FleetCenter.

The pre-show front stage scrim was an enormous American flag over two stories tall. And when he opened with a dramatic version of his song ``America,'' the place erupted, especially when three more flags unfurled from the overhead rigging and Diamond improvised a chorus of ``Stand up America! Stand up America!''

Naturally, nearly everyone obeyed.

But jingoism took a back seat after that, and instead Diamond focused on a tightly delivered greatest hits set that lasted in excess of two hours and included more than two dozen songs before the encores kicked in.

Backed by a 15-piece band (including four horns and four strings) and two singers, Diamond was in sturdy vocal shape three shows into this national tour to promote his new album ``Three Chord Opera,'' the first disc of all-new Diamond compositions since 1974.

Diamond performed four songs from it, and ``At the Movies'' fared best. But though his fans sat politely through the new material, they wanted the hits, and Diamond dished them out: ``Cherry, Cherry,'' ``Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon,'' ``I'm a Believer,'' ``Red, Red Wine,'' et al.

``Sweet Caroline'' was the early crowd pleaser. The audience members swayed and sang along and acted goofy and seemed relieved to have an outlet for some giddy fun for the first time in weeks.

``In these troubled times for our beloved country,'' he said after a couple of numbers, ``I hear music has the power to heal. If that is a fact, let the healing begin.''

A maudlin ``Solitary Man'' was a strange next choice. But he also dedicated a Sinatraesque version of ``He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother'' ``to the heroes.'' Then before the new ``I Believe in Happy Endings,'' Diamond noted, ``In these troubled times for our beloved country,'' again, ``it is good to hold onto our optimism.''

That did it for speeches, and the rest of the night was dedicated to Diamond's music and its unique - and sometimes odd - blend of Vegas, vaudeville, Tin Pan Alley, and the Brill building sound.

Diamond displayed a smooth and comfortable stage presence throughout the evening, accented by his now trademark grimaces, as he roved through material that ranged from an effective and orchestrated ``If You Know What I Mean'' and a playful ``Cracklin' Rosie'' to the grinding ``Holly Holy'' and the melodramatic ``You Don't Bring me Flowers.''

Though Diamond's audience leaned toward the higher end of the Baby Boomer group and included more women than men, there were also teens, blue-haired punks, rockers with J. Geils t-shirts, and other wildly diverse faces in the crowd.

 


 

MUSIC REVIEW

With Neil Diamond, good times have always seemed so good

From the Boston Globe, Please visit their website!

By Joan Anderman, Globe Staff, 10/3/2001

Neil Diamond gave 20,000 fans more than the gift of familiar song last night. During more than two hours of soothing balladry and uplifting pop, he offered the possibility that some things haven't changed.

Diamond is the rarest of modern songwriters: both a craftsman and an optimist. His concert spanned the infectious bop of ''I'm a Believer'' - a hit for the Monkees 35 years ago and a hit for Smashmouth in 2001 - to ''I Believe in Happy Endings'' - from this year's ''Three Chord Opera,'' the singer/songwriter's 45th album. If his songs drift toward the far end of the schmaltz spectrum, so be it. A good dose of old-fashioned earnestness has suddenly become more gratifying than grating.

It was no surprise when an overture-style swell of strings signaled the start of ''America.'' With a half dozen Ameican flags adorning an otherwise spare stage, Diamond and his 17-piece band brought the audience to a cheering, singing peak on the first song. ''I hear that music has the power to heal,'' he said. ''If that's so, let the healing begin.'' The warmth and energy hardly flagged for the rest of the night, despite the fact that the set was front-loaded with his best material. Mournful ''Solitary Man,'' which featured four-piece horn and string sections, the retro-gem ''Cherry Cherry,'' ''Red Red Wine'' - the first half played as doleful ballad, the second slipping into UB40's reggae version - and ''I'm a Believer'' were performed in the first 15 minutes.

Diamond's catalog, while filled with more than his share of immortalized tunes, is wildly uneven. ''Beautiful Noise'' is an intolerably hokey number, made even cheesier by tens of thousands of hands clapping. Some of the new songs are simply formulaic: ''The Best Part of Me'' was strictly paint-by-numbers. ''At the Movies,'' a tribute to cinematic escapism, was simply bland.

Diamond is a restrained and unassuming performer, the one concession to glitz being his trademark glass-beaded, billowing blouse. He could afford to be understated: at 60, Diamond's voice still has depth, tone, and pitch. He underlined lyrics with an occasional sweep of the hand, a fist in the air for punctuation, and a few spry, sideways shuffles. And his finest songs stood on their own. ''Holly Holy'' took on the air of a revival, and ''Sweet Caroline'' inspired such unbridled nostalgia, with the bittersweet refrain of ''good times never seemed so good,'' Diamond orchestrated three raucous endings. Even his midlife crisis material - ''You Don't Bring Me Flowers'' (performed in duet with one of his background singers who gamely took Streisand's parts) and the misty dirge ''Love on the Rocks'' - redeemed themselves with a fading brand of dignified emotionality that felt just right at this particular moment in time.

This story ran on page C10 of the Boston Globe on 10/3/2001.


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