Neil Diamond 2001-2002 Concert Reviews

San Jose, CA  December 9, 2001

Published Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2001, in the San Jose Mercury News

With ageless appeal, star shines like -- well, like Neil Diamond
BY TONY HICKS
Contra Costa Times

The man in a black leather jacket simply couldn't help himself any longer.

``Neeilllll,'' he screamed, letting loose an expletive-filled torrent describing Neil Diamond's ability to rock. He drew stares from three older women standing next to him at the sold-out Compaq Center at San Jose on Sunday night. After they recovered, they giggled in agreement.

Diamond can do that to a grandma and to a guy in his 20s. Diamond was everything he was supposed to be Sunday -- clad in a glittery purple shirt and delivering his classics as dramatically as possible.

Despite the Vegaslike pomp that has inspired jokes about Diamond the past decade (or two), there's no denying that the 60-year-old connects with his fans or that he's written truckloads of great songs.

Perhaps predictably, Diamond opened his two-hour spectacular by dropping an airplane hangar-sized U.S. flag covering the stage, opening with ``America.'' He brought along a 17-member band, over whom more flags unfurled at song's end. That's when Diamond struck the first of several pointing-toward-the-heavens moves that ended his remake of ``The Jazz Singer'' two decades ago.

What followed was a cavalcade of greatest hits plus a few songs from ``Three Chord Opera,'' his first album of all-new material in more than 25 years. Diamond had a permanent sway on all night -- when he wasn't strolling the stage edge, soaking up the adulation of all the women.

Yes, Diamond still gets the chicks. After plowing through ``Solitary Man,'' ``Cherry, Cherry'' (which was when the guy in the leather jacket finally snapped and started his gleeful cursing), ``Red Red Wine,'' and ``I'm a Believer,'' Diamond started in with the women up front.

While introducing ``Play Me,'' Diamond mentioned he sometimes gets weepy on stage. One woman rushed the stage and offered him something to dry his eyes. After a theatrical toweling off, Diamond lent her the microphone, and she asked if he wanted her phone number. A similar scene played out at the end of ``Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon.'' Diamond leaned down and let a woman pet his face, then finished her off with a lip-lock. ``My goodness, I think she's ready,'' he said.

His strong baritone was in fine working order all night -- all he's lost over the years is some hair. Most of his new songs -- ``You're the Best Part of Me,'' ``I Believe in Happy Endings'' and ``I Haven't Played This Song in Years'' -- worked. The only clunker all night was another new one, ``At the Movies,'' which sounded like a cheap commercial.

But Diamond responded by hammering at the old catalog -- ``Forever in Blue Jeans,'' ``Captain Sunshine'' and a drawn-out ``Sweet Caroline.'' He did a theatrical ``You Don't Bring Me Flowers,'' ``Shilo,'' ``He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother'' and a very serious ``I Am -- I Said.'' Just when he was in danger of getting a bit heavy himself, he ended the show with ``Cracklin' Rosie'' and a gospel-charged ``Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show,'' before the American flag dropped again.

It's pointless to watch Diamond and worry about trends and how he fits into the modern music world. He's become a music world unto himself, and it would be disappointing if he weren't wearing the sparkling shirt, gesturing to the crowd and making the women (and well-groomed guys in leather jackets) swoon.

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