Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Cleveland, OH October 14-15, 2001

An escapist hit parade from a master crooner
From the Cleveland Plain Dealer Please visit their website!

10/15/01

John Soeder
Plain Dealer Pop Music Critic

In the '60s and '70s, he was unstoppable. By the '80s, he was almost unbearable. In the '90s, he was cool all over again, thanks to endorsements from filmmaker Quentin Tarantino, alternative-rockers Urge Overkill and other hipsters.

Last night at Gund Arena, Neil Diamond was all these things and more. He performs there again tonight.

The 14-karat crooner got off to a star-spangled start with "America." He tripped while making his way off a riser at the center of the stage - a rare misstep.

"If in fact it's true music has the power to heal, let the healing begin," said Diamond, 60. He wore black pants and a red shirt with sequins that sparkled in the spotlights.

He didn't dwell on these "trying times," as he described the current state of affairs. Instead, he treated a capacity crowd of 16,000-plus fans to an escapist hit parade.

Backed by a 17-piece band, Diamond strapped on an acoustic guitar for several tunes, including "Solitary Man" and "Red Red Wine." The latter number shifted into reggae mode after a slow start.

Diamond no longer sports one of the biggest manes or the most serious sideburns in show biz. Fortunately, his neatly trimmed new look has not resulted in a Samson-like loss of strength. On the contrary, Diamond's mighty baritone filled every corner of the arena, especially when he belted out "Cherry, Cherry" and "I'm a Believer."

During a smoldering rendition of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon,' Diamond dropped to his knees at the foot of the stage and beckoned to a female fan. She took his hand and he reclined, singing the rest of the song inches from her face and caressing her cheek - a master at work.

Not for nothing is he known as "the Jewish Elvis." Or maybe Elvis was "the Pentecostal Neil."

Diamond showcased material from his latest album, "Three Chord Opera," in the middle of the concert. A string quartet heightened the drama during "I Haven't Played This Song in Years," a melancholy ballad. Another highlight was "I Believe in Happy Endings," a sweet tune in search of a Walt Disney soundtrack.

Fresh product duly plugged, Diamond hopped back aboard his time machine. "Forever in Blue Jeans," "Holly Holy," "Sweet Caroline" and other old favorites had the audience singing along.

Good times never seemed so good, indeed.

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