Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Moline, IL October 24, 2001


Diamond serves up musical comfort food
From the Moline Dispatch - Please visit their website.

By Sean Leary, Dispatch/Argus entertainment editor


102401.jpg (8467 bytes)MOLINE -- ``We've been going through some trying times lately as a country,'' Neil Diamond said at the onset of his show at The Mark of the Quad Cities Wednesday night. ``If it is true that music has the power to heal, then let the healing begin!''

And so it began, as Mr. Diamond cut into over two hours of his rich catalog of modern standards before a sold-out arena. The living legend's set list probably hasn't changed much since he opened The Mark with two shows in May 1993, but I and the rest of the roughly 11,000 on hand weren't about to complain. After all, a generous serving of Diamond's universally known smashes is the musical equivalent of comfort food.

Taking the stage as a Godzilla-sized American flag hovered above him, Mr. Diamond predictably, but pleasingly, chugged into ``America,'' charging the crowd with patriotic fervor and bringing them to their feet.

Following the upbeat opener, his backing band and singers jived into ``Cherry'' as the audience shimmied along with the fizzy favorite.

A segue into Diamond compositions made famous by others followed. The understated ``Red Red Wine'' was sad, but lacked the transcendent pain of UB40's brilliant cover. ``I'm a Believer,'' on the other hand, matched up quite well with the Monkees' upbeat romp.

He milked every drop of melodrama from ``Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon,'' lasciviously lingering over each note and swooning his way across the stage. And the tune's climax was by far the most over-the-top cheesy highlight of the concert. Kneeling, then lying down, on the edge of the stage, Mr. Diamond beckoned to three women in the front row, whom he proceeded to serenade while holding their hands and tenderly kissing their cheeks. After the last note brushed away, he collapsed on his back, joking, ``Anyone out there got a cigarette?'' as the ladies fanned him with kerchiefs. Or at least I think they were kerchiefs ....

Amid the favorites, the singer managed to shake in a few songs from his latest album, ``Three Chord Opera,'' and the majority of them fit in well. The track that most enthralled fans was the ballad ``The Best Part of Me,'' with its melody reminiscent of Barry Manilow's ``Can't Smile Without You.''

``Forever in Blue Jeans'' brought the throng to its feet again as everyone clapped and sang along with the ode to never-ending youth. ``Holly Holy'' had much the same effect, gettin' the congregation jiggy with its thunderous chorus.

However, it didn't hold a candle to the explosive reaction to the joyous ``Sweet Caroline,'' which got a reception so nice the singer did it thrice. After a full-on run through, DMr. iamond kicked into two reprises of ``Caroline,'' adding sing-along portions for the crowd, based on two banners in the front row emblazoned with the chorus lyrics ``Wo, Wo, Wo'' and ``So Good, So Good, So Good.'' Call me cynical, but I'd bet it was so rigged, so rigged, so rigged. But no matter. The audience loved the extra helpings of ``Sweet.''

Particularly touching was a two-song set to close the pre-encore portion of the evening. The New York born-and-bred singer dedicated ``He Ain't Heavy ... He's My Brother'' to the heroes of the Sept. 11 tragedy, then poured himself into it and the following number, ``I Am ... I Said.'' Both were delivered with heartfelt fire and a touch of melancholy.

The encore, ``Cracklin' Rosie'' put things back in a more effervescent mood, thrilling the crowd to its feet again, where it remained through the riotous closer, ``Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.''

As the antagonistic climate of the world grows more heated, the importance of escapism in entertainment has been magnified. Mr. Diamond, as he promised, certainly provided a welcome diversion, but with a touch of poignancy, making for a powerful and memorable evening for his fans.

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