Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Rockford, IL October 23, 2001

Neil Diamond is Rockford's best friend
From the Rockford Register, Please visit thier website!

Neil Diamond gave fans a dream concert Tuesday night at the MetroCentre in Rockford.

He offered a bunch of extra choruses to "Sweet Caroline," letting the near-capacity crowd revel in -- and sing along with -- the feel-good bonus.

This 1984 inductee into the Songwriter Hall of Fame and 2000 recipient of its lifetime achievement award covered "I'm a Believer," which he wrote for The Monkees, and "Red, Red Wine," which he turned over to UB40.

And for "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," the 61-year-old got down on his knees, beckoned three middle-aged women in the front row to approach the stage and lay down to serenade them. He kissed the starry-eyed swooners afterwards, rolled on his back and asked if anyone had a cigarette.

Diamond performed more than two dozen songs for two hours, with a 15-member band and a couple of backup singers. There was neither intermission nor warm-up act. Sometimes he strummed a guitar; toward the end he took to a piano; occasionally he told an anecdote. But mostly he strutted and belted.

He restricted himself to just a handful of numbers from his new CD, "Three Chord Opera." Instead, the pop singer/songwriter -- who has sold 115 million records over a 35-year career -- ran through his vast catalog of Billboard hits, from the No. 1 "Cracklin' Rosie" and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" to the top 10 "Holly Holy" and "Cherry, Cherry."

These decisions also suggest why he ranked as the top solo touring act of the 1990s, according to Amusement Business.

Diamond was the first rock star to headline Broadway (in 1972). The set for his Rockford gig included platforms, ramps and steps, all so he could engage the audience. The showman wore black slacks and a wine-colored shirt festooned with his trademark glass beads. Taking the stage at 8:25, he opened with his anthem "America." Old Glory hung from the rafters. When he came to the line, "Stand up for America," the few still seated in the crowd rose, at his urging. Three flags unfurled.

Diamond periodically alluded to the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks. But mostly the entertainer put over his croaking croon, outsized grandeur and impassioned sincerity. So at one point he led the crowd in a rendition of "Happy Birthday" for his niece, who apparently was in attendance. Later he sat on a stool for the introspective ballad "I Am ... I Said" and with powerful clarity made its loneliness resonate, particularly the admission, "I am, I said, / to no one there, / and no one heard it at all, / not even the chair."

The band helped Diamond remain fresh after three decades and got in the spirit as much as the adoring fans. The horns in particular tootled in the crispness. And a fluid string section -- four women in black evening gowns -- bopped along when not playing.

Diamond's second and final encore was "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show." He preached it from a platform. The faithful had long been converted.

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