Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Denver, CO November 4, 2001

Diamond drives music in his old, familiar style
From the Rocky Mountain News, Please visit their website!

By Steve Knopper, Special to the News

Hidden somewhere inside the schmaltzy Neil Diamond -- the man who sings America beneath five giant flags, wears a sparkly blue open-collar shirt and lies on his side to seduce two women in the audience -- is a rock 'n' roll songwriter.
This behind-the-scenes professional, who gave I'm a Believer to the Monkees, Solitary Man to Chris Isaak, Red, Red Wine to UB40 and Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon to Urge Overkill, is subtle and economical, and he still makes brief appearances at Diamond's Vegas-style revues.

This rocking Neil Diamond reminded us Sunday night, during a rockabilly-and-R&B version of the staccato Cherry Cherry, that John Cougar Mellencamp didn't create his hit R.O.C.K. in the U.S.A. out of nowhere. This Diamond, strumming an acoustic guitar, drew out all the dark corners of Solitary Man, a brilliant loner's ballad, which under other circumstances could have been a devastating country-western hit.

But this Diamond was not who the Pepsi Center crowd came to see. Diamond, of course, built his star power in the '70s as a glittery showman who drenched his anthems with melodrama.

Backed by a 17-piece orchestra Sunday night, Diamond took each of these one-time radio smashes -- the opening America; Sweet Caroline; Forever in Blue Jeans; Captain Sunshine; He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (dedicated to New York City firefighters) -- completely over the top.

"Symphonic" was an understatement. Rather than relying on his deep and supersmooth but ultimately one-dimensional voice, Diamond slipped inside of his veteran band's oom-pah-pah (Beautiful Noise), jump blues (I'm a Believer) and corny lounge music (You Are the Best Part of Me).

Toward the end of Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon, the 60-year-old singer-songwriter caressed two women beneath the stage. Then he rolled onto his back and sighed: "Where am I? Wow. Has anybody got a cigarette?"

Diamond, who began his music career in the mid-'60s as a songwriter-for-hire, quickly turned himself into the quintessential middle-of-the-road singer. He sang duets with Barbra Streisand and, despite his distinct lack of Christianity, managed two Christmas albums.

Although he releases new material infrequently these days, his latest album, this year's Three Chord Opera, is filled with Diamond classics -- simple, emotional turns of phrase (like I Haven't Played This Song in Years) set to pop tunes that seem familiar the first time you hear them.

The downside is, like all Diamond songs, they become so familiar they drive you crazy. And to do that, you need real talent.

All-American Diamond shines with songs to heal a nation
From The Daily Camera, Please visit their website!

By Greg Glasgow
Camera Popular Music Writer

DENVER — "If it is true that music has the power to heal," Neil Diamond told a crowd of more than 16,000 Sunday night at the Pepsi Center, "well, let the healing begin." And that after he'd already brought the house down by appearing in the wake of a giant red, white and blue flag to open the show with his ultra-patriotic hit, "America."

Though the two hours that followed weren't filled with, in the strictest sense, "healing" music, they provided the perfect sea of songs on which to sail away the cares and worries of an anxious nation. Most were simply fun clap-alongs about boys meeting girls or girls leaving boys: Infectious, melodic classics like "Cherry Cherry," "Sweet Caroline" and "I'm a Believer" (currently riding the charts again thanks to a hit version by Smash Mouth) had the crowd up and dancing the night away.

Teenagers, senior citizens and everyone in between were caught up in the magic of the singer-songwriter's legendary live show. And while he's no longer the wild-haired young man clad in leather, the 60-year-old Diamond (clad in a sequin-studded shirt and sensible slacks) can still command a stage, whether strapping on an acoustic guitar to bang out "Red Red Wine" or fully reclining near the front of the stage to croon "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" to two female fans.

The tour is Diamond's first in three years (his last stint in Denver was ringing in the new millennium at the Can), and while it's a departure in terms of production — his longtime "in the round" stage has given way to a more traditional setup, and the banks of synthesizers have been replaced by a 17-piece band with real strings and horns — in terms of material, it's more or less the same greatest-hits show Diamond has been doing for years.

Save for a quartet of tunes from his recent Three Chord Opera album, nearly every song was from his hit-heavy past. Diamond ventured into some of his schmaltzier '70s work ("Love on the Rocks," "Forever in Blue Jeans," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"), but the best moments of the night were from Diamond's golden late-'60s/early-'70s period: "Shilo," "Cracklin' Rosie," "I Am ... I Said," "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," etc.

Sure, it was essentially the same set he's played at every stop on the tour thus far, but that gravelly voice is still capable of packing an impressive amount of emotion into songs it's sung a million times. When that voice implores you to "Stand up for America!," you do, and you cheer and you smile at the strangers standing next to you, and you go home with a dozen classic melodies rolling around your head, and for a few days at least, you're a little bit happier, and a little bit less worried about the state of the world.

Thanks, Neil.

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