Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

St. Paul, MN October 26-27, 2001
Photos by Joe Imhof 10/27 except as noted

 

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ST. PAUL PIONEER PRESS

Published: Saturday, October 27, 2001

Diamond paints town red, white and blue
From the Pioneer Press, Please visit their website!

BY JIM WALSH Pop Music Critic

nd1.jpg (16153 bytes)Neil Diamond and Bob Dylan have a lot in common. For the moment, anyway.
Both singers gave concerts at the Xcel Energy Center this week -- Dylan Thursday; Diamond Friday and tonight. Both singer's surnames start with the big "D," both are 60-year-old icons of American pop, and both seized their time in the spotlight to say a little something about the world we live in.

But while Dylan sheathed his commentary in poetry, ambiguity, and a craggy voice left to its own devices and up to interpretation, Diamond was hit-'em-over-the-head-and-heart clear, and about as subtle as a rocket's red glare on the Fourth of July.

The first thing concertgoers saw upon entering the arena Friday night was a massive American flag-slash-curtain. The stars and stripes matched the concession stand's most popular item, a T-shirt featuring a silhouette of a fist-thrusting Diamond in front of Old Glory. All of which is why it was hardly a surprise that the Brooklyn, N.Y., native opened the show with his immigration anthem "America."

When Diamond sang, "Stand up for America," the crowd followed his command to the T, and when three more gigantic American flags unfurled from the rafters, much fist-pumping ensued.

"If, as they say, music has the power to heal," said Diamond before a dramatic turn on "Solitary Man," "then let the healing begin."

He introduced "I Believe In Happy Endings" by saying, "It's so very important to maintain our sense of optimism." He introduced "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" by saying, "I think it's important that we do a song in recognition of our American heroes," and ended it by imploring the throng to, "God bless our heroes!" Indeed, at times, it seemed as if Diamond was on a one-man mission to single-handedly make sure that America rises.

kissh.jpg (9351 bytes)Timeliness aside, much of the night was typical Diamond fare, which means bombast, fastballs, sweetness, showmanship, and schmaltz. "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," "I Am, I Said," "Holly Holy," "Forever in Blue Jeans," "Sweet Caroline," "Cracklin' Rosie," and "Cherry Cherry" were crowd-pleasing delights. "Red Wine," "Soolaimon" "I'm A Believer," and "I Haven't Played This Song In Years," were critic-pummeling drainers.

Diamond has always been something of a cross between a folk music dabbler and a Rat Pack wannabe, and his two-hour-and-20-minute show featured elements of both, like Bob Roberts doing Vegas. And unlike Dylan, who inspires with the twitch of an earlobe, Diamond was pretty spry for an old guy, whether he was playing his acoustic guitar, playing piano, playing off his big band, or play-seducing a grown woman from the audience who was thrown into girlhood during, "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon."

The highlight of the night came last, with Diamond's indestructible "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," which got, and kept, the crowd on its feet, many members of which will undoubtedly pack up the babies and grab the old ladies and everyone goes back to the big VFW Hall on Kellogg Boulevard tonight.

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Photos below by Kathy Shue 10/26/01

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