Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

Phoenix, AZ, November 27, 2001

Congratulations Diamond's Back

Neil Diamond performs at AWA on November 27, 2001.

John Carlos Villani
The Arizona Republic
Nov. 28, 2001 12:00:00

• Click here for a slideshow of the big concert.

"We are God's children all, so reach out your hands," shouted Neil Diamond from the top of a hydraulically elevated platform. "Take my hand, sweet Lord, and I will never stray."

No, it wasn't a Baptist tent revival last night at America West Arena. Just another Diamond concert in front of a sold-out audience of slightly more than 16,000 "Diamondheads", as his fans call themselves.

Lasting just under two hours and covering 27 songs, Diamond and a band numbering seventeen musicians and singers took their time working through highlights from the star's considerable repertoire of thirty eight Top 40 hits. While Diamond didn't ignore his new material from this year's CD titled Three Chord Opera, he certainly didn't waste any time giving his well-behaved and mostly older audience just what they wanted: all hits, almost all the time.

Some of the luckiest members of the audience were those who had purchased cheap seats behind the stage. Diamond's set turned out to have a rear-facing platform from which the singer repeatedly faced fans just a few yards from his face, practically crooning into their "Diamond Girl" t-shirts..

One very lucky blonde haired woman in the front row of the main floor was selected to approach the stage during "Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon." Once there, Diamond prostrated himself on the stage, held the woman's hand, and sang the song while looking straight into her eyes, and wound up planting a long kiss straight onto her lips.

For the rest of the audience, this was a satisfying concert, if one that seemed a bit overly restrained on the musical side. Certainly, Diamond had a mountain of material to cover, including rousing versions of "I'm a Believer" and a reggae-tinged "Red, Red Wine," a pair of Diamond-penned songs that were made famous by The Monkees and UB40.

Comprised of a four-man brass section, a four-woman strings section, two female vocalists, two drummers (including Ron Tutt, who some Diamondheads insist is dead), three guitarists and two keyboardists, Diamond's Nashville-based band roared to life on songs like "Solitary Man," "Cherry, Cherry," "At the Movies," "Holly Holy," and "Sweet Caroline".

Though his previous Phoenix concert featured an in-the-round stage, for last night's show Diamond stuck to the arena's usual arrangement of a north side stage topped by a lighting rig so massive it resembled the Alliance battle cruiser from "Star Wars: The Phantom Menace." The sound was good, if somewhat intentionally underplayed from the perspective of the arena's floor level.

Wearing one of his trademark, sparkling burgundy shirts and smartly tailored black slacks, Diamond took to the stage about 30 minutes late as an accommodation to fans lined up in the chilly night air, waiting to clear the arena's security checkpoints. A massive, three-story tall American flag was draped across the stage's front.

As the lights dimmed and the flag was lifted, Diamond broke into the ringing first verse of "America," a song whose anthemic bass line was played again at the concert's close, after an encore consisting of "Cracklin' Rosie" and "Salvation Show."

Halfway through the concert, Diamond elicited a loud round of applause when he thanked the audience for erecting billboards along the route his limousine traveled from Sky Harbor Airport to America West Arena. "I'm really impressed with all these billboards that say "Congratulations , Diamond's Back," joked the pop star in reference to the city's signage saluting it's World Series championship team.

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