Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Milwaukee, WI November 14-15, 2001

 

Decades of Diamond

Singer heats up November night with old, new songs

By DAVE TIANEN
From the Journal Sentinel, Please visit thier website!


to some measure supplanted by several decades of music that is slower, more introspective, more sentimental and, frankly, usually less compelling.

There were, of course, many thousands of middle-aged ladies at the Arena on Wednesday night who wouldn't agree with any of that.

Wednesday's show started very well. As one might have expected, Diamond opened with "Coming to America" and used it as a rousing and lavishly produced statement of patriotism and community. He then shifted into a new song, "Mission of Love," which actually has a little more R&B snap in concert than it does on the "Three Chord Opera" album. The addition of horn riffs from a four-piece brass section then gave "Solitary Man" a fresh coat of moodiness.

The real back-to-back delights were "Red Red Wine" and "I'm a Believer" in which Diamond decided to steal back a trick from the people who had stolen one from him. After opening "Red Red Wine" in its original style, Diamond then shifted into the joyous reggae arrangement made famous by UB40. Next, his big horn rendition of "I'm a Believer" acknowledged the celebratory revival that oldie has received recently at the hands of Smash Mouth.

Diamond kept the hot streak going with an unexpected revisiting of "Soolaimon" from "African Trilogy II." One of the areas where Diamond probably doesn't get proper credit is his world music of the early '70s, a small but diverse body of work that anticipated "Graceland" by a decade and a half.

After that, the show lost some momentum. There was the minor hit "The Last Thing on My Mind," and the title tune from "Beautiful Noise" followed by a string of new songs: "I Haven't Played This Song in Years," "You Are the Best Part of Me" and "At the Movies." The new songs don't come close to the best work of his classic years or, for that matter, the best songs on "Tennessee Moon."

To his credit, Diamond hasn't made himself a slave to the hits. There was no "Kentucky Woman," no "Song Sung Blue," no "Play Me." There was a powerful and unexpected revival of "He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother" done as a tribute to "real heroes" like our firefighters and military personnel.

"Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon" showed up possibly because of its second lease on life from "Pulp Fiction." Even when it was new that tune reeked of adolescent soap opera, and now the lyrics no longer fit the singer or his audience. But Diamond finessed that one by turning it into a joke, lying prone on the edge of the stage while three 40-something girls from the audience showered their affections upon him.

Neil and I are probably never going to agree on where his set list should go, but he went out in rousing fashion, closing the show with one more big tent revival of "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show." That's as good a Southern gospel rave-up as you could ever ask a New York Jewish boy to write.

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