Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Fargo, ND October 29, 2001

Living legend Diamond says music can help heal the country
By Tammy Swift
From The Fargo Forum, Please visit their website!
Neil Diamond is America.

If he proved anything during a perfectly orchestrated concert before 14,382 Neiliacs at the Fargodome Monday night, it was that he represents all that is American.

He is slick, sentimental, proud, capitalistic, independent, self-made and extravagant. He is flashy, occasionally schmaltzy, hardworking, unpretentious, given to amazing showmanship and – depending on whom you ask – pretty darned sexy.

Neil Diamond impersonators aside, there is only one true Neil. And that’s what makes him special.

So what if he occasionally looks like your uncle doing the cha-cha at your wedding dance? Who cares if there’s a bit of a tummy pressing against his trademark sequined shirts? There is no one who seems to believe so strongly in what he does, and – in the process – Diamond gives the best performance he can every night.

Diamond, described reverently by one concertgoer as a “living legend,” took the stage 20 minutes late, garbed in a red shirt that practically simmered with shiny glass beads.

Nobody seemed to mind his tardy entrance, especially when it was accompanied by the raising of a massive U.S. flag.

Fittingly enough, Diamond launched into a powerhouse version of his anthem from “The Jazz Singer,” “America.” Red and blue lights scanned the crowd, while three more flags dropped from the ceiling.

As he belted out the verse, “Stand up for America,” the willing crowd rose to its feet, roaring its support.

In fact, Diamond would make several nods to his country throughout the night.

“We are happy to be back here in Fargo – in the beginning of spring,” quipped Diamond, whose last Fargo appearance was in 1996. “With our country going through such difficulties, if it’s true music has the power to heal, let the healing begin.”

Later, he would dedicate another old hit, “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” to the rescue workers and citizens affected by the Sept. 11 tragedy in New York.

While patriotism was at full mast onstage, it was a bit more restrained in the audience. A few miniature U.S. flags wagged here and there, but not many. One bearer of Old Glory, spotted in the beer line, actually turned out to be Canadian.

“It’s my way of supporting your country,” explained Greg Bieber, who traveled from Winnipeg with friends for the concert. “I’m for freedom and for peace, so I’m doing my little part. We just want you to know we are all one, and we are in full support of you.”

Others seemed more willing to salute the flag of Diamond. Kevin Peterson, a Climax, Minn., resident, planned to celebrate his 24th birthday at midnight after an evening with Neil. “Yeah, I love Neil Diamond,” he said. “I’ve been singing ‘Shilo’ all week. He’s just classic. He’s Neil Diamond. You have to like Neil.”

A lucky woman in the front row had to really like Neil, especially after he knelt down at the corner of the stage and serenaded her with “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon.” The crowd cheered approvingly when he reclined on stage, put his arms around her and, a la Elvis, sang like she was the only woman in the room. Delighted, she stroked his hair and face. It all ended with a kiss, much to the crowd’s delight.

“Boy, those Fargo girls are just too much,” Diamond said, after plopping theatrically on the stage like a love-sick boy. “Does anyone have a cigarette?”

Diamond continued to sing his top hits, demonstrating his trademark heartfelt tenor and perfectly choreographed movements. He hit the high points, from a haunting “Solitary Man,” and a revved-up version of “I’m a Believer” to three different, participation-heavy sessions of “Sweet Caroline.” Crowd response was a bit more restrained when he performed less-familiar songs, such as tracks from his newest album, “Three Chord Opera.”

But whether the songs were time-worn or new, Diamond sang them all the same: As if they were as fresh as the new snow, as if he would never get sick of performing them, and as if he wanted to sing them especially for you.

Maybe that’s why they call him a living legend.

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