Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Nashville, TN November 20, 2001

Diamond gives the show his audience wants

From the Tennessean - Please visit their website!

By PETER COOPER
Staff Writer

Well, he's still Neil Diamond.

And for more than two hours Tuesday night in the Gaylord Entertainment Center, he put on a show filled with kitsch and class, sap and schmaltz, melodies and memories.

He sang most of the big ones — from Cracklin' Rosie to Play Me to I Am … I Said to Holly Holy to, yes, Forever in Blue Jeans — in a voice as emphatic and strong and full and emotional as ever.

The arrangements, courtesy of music director Alan Lindgren, were well-designed, if synth-heavy, and a band that included sure-handed drummer Ron Tutt (Elvis Presley, Emmylou Harris, Billy Joel, Gram Parsons, etc.) was efficient and tasteful.

For his part, Diamond was everything he was supposed to be. He opened with America, amid flags and cheers and appropriately patriotic sentiment, and went on to play a set that included not only his hits but also a heaping helping of songs from his most recent album, Three Chord Opera.

The newer material allowed Diamond, who has not had a hit single since 1986, to feel like something other than a human jukebox, though his fans reacted most uproariously to Cherry, Cherry, Solitary Man (recently recorded by Johnny Cash), You Don't Bring Me Flowers and others of the old-school variety.

Throughout, Diamond seemed to have a grip on just what it is that makes him an icon after 35 years of recordings.

He sang with vigor and no small amount of camp, allowing Red, Red Wine to begin as a sad song and then morph into a reggae beat that approximated UB40's version, and later rendering Sweet Caroline as a sing-along, roll-back-the-years party tune. The latter song began, ended, began again, ended, then righted itself for one more nostalgic chorus.

For his part, Diamond employed that famously gruff, famously over-the-top vocal style, augmented with his three main moves: karate chops to emphasize the beat; ''stay right there,'' open-palmed hand gestures; and — when he needed to up the ante — song-ending, double-armed victory gestures.

It was all in fun, all carefully planned and all reasonably effective.

If his show is inching close to Tom Jones-ish, Vegas-style show biz, Diamond makes up for it with memorable songs and a keen sense of exactly what it is his audience is looking for.

He is, he sings. And, make no mistake, people still want to hear it.

Peter Cooper writes about music for The Tennessean. He can be reached at 259-8220 or by e-mail at pcooper@tennessean.com

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