By Julia LaBua,
October 29, 1998
Quad-Citians probably will always have a soft spot in their hearts for Neil Diamond.
Diamond was the first performer at The Mark of the Quad-Cities when it opened in 1993. The concert was an instant sellout and a spectacular coup for a fledgling arena. It would be the first in a long line of the brightest musical stars who have played the Moline venue.
So it was only fitting that it was Diamond on stage at The Mark on Wednesday, helping the arena celebrate its fifth anniversary with another sellout crowd.
"I'm happy to be back in the building," Diamond said. "I'm told we opened this place about five years ago -- and I hope to be coming back for the next 25!"
From his opening number to the final notes of the encore, every extravagant gesture Diamond made was greeted with wild cheers. The concert was in the round in more ways than one, with the stage in the middle of the arena and set to revolve, giving everyone a good look at the singer.
The revolution of the stage seemed superfluous, with Diamond pacing the perimeter, throwing kisses to the audience.
Classics like "Cracklin' Rosie" or "I Am I Said" were received ecstatically. A bombastic version of "America," complete with flashing red, white and blue lights and giant flags that unfurled from above the stage, brought them to their feet in a roar of approval.
Even selections from his brand-new album drew ovations. Of course, it helped that the songs were familiar, since the new album is a collection of classic movie songs like "As Time Goes By" and "Unchained Melody," both of which Diamond sang in his own arrangement without drawing unfair comparisons to the timeless originals.
When the last song was played, few in the audience seemed in a hurry to leave.
"I have an excellent memory for faces," he warned. "I want to see you all back here next time."
Copyright 1998 Quad City Times
by Sean Leary
In the cars and the minivans they were coming to A-MARK-ica Wednesday night.
"They" were Neil Diamond fans, a caravan of 10,000 strong, trekking to pack The MARK of the Quad Cities for "the jazz singer's" latest visit to the Moline arena he helped inaugurate with two sold-out gigs in May 1993.
Although it's been more than five years and a pair of return concerts since those auspicious "first dates," the love area fans have for the balladeer hasn't diminshed. Wednesday evening, a sold-out pack of revved-up devotees welcomed the man back for a triumphant two-hour run-through of hits, old and new.
Performing in the round, upon a stage adorned with multi-colored lights that dotted its perimeter like baubles on a charm bracelet, Diamond was an emotional sliver in the darkness. Most of the evening he drained his soul through song, he stood framed by a trio of beams that shone down on him like a full moon's glow, augmenting the torchy feel of the evening. Providing an ornate cushion for this jewel was his spectacular eight-piece band -- its sound crisp and full.
And, of course, there was the voice -- the singer's throaty baritone, a smoky gem with all the luster of a champagne-colored diamond. Depending on the composition, it can sting your heart with the wicked cold of an unexpected fall wind or it can buoy your spirit with a warmth that blazes like burnished gold.
Despite the encroaching gray at Diamond's temples, his instrument showed o signs of age -- it's still as crystal clear and emotive as ever, and it tackled his greatest hits with aplomb.
"Cherry" had a red-hot swing buoyed by almost 20,000 hands slapping along with the chorus. With its stripped-down arrangement, "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" was hypnotic and resonant, its lyrics given a surrendered weight by Diamond's pained reading.
The mighty, over-the-top "America" captured all the epic splendor, gigantic pomp and hammy spectacle of this great nation of ours, and it was rounded out by a thunderous standing ovation.
"You Don't Bring Me Flowers" dripped with the angst of dispatching a box of mementos shortly after a cutting breakup. The raucous "Sweet Caroline," with its earthy feel seemed to mirror the rough, rising spirits of a neighborhood pub a little past the halfway mark of cheap beer night.
Diamond is an expert at giving a dramatic performance without a lot of pyrotechnics, effects and fireworks. Using only the force of his voice, the melodrama of his gestures and the grandeur and mastery of his songwriting, he's able to captivate an audience. Even if you're not a great fan of his work, you have to admire his skill andcharisma.
There was no debate as to whether those assembled shared that sentiment, and likewise, Diamond returned the good vibes.
"I love you!" he screamed to the adoring masses. "You're coming home with me tonight!"
He must have one heck of a large bus.
The love-in continued through the mock-encore. Diamond began to leave the performing area, but refreshingly eschewed the usual dance of departing and returning after enough applause had been juiced from the public.
Instead, as he moved to descend the stairs he froze, then turned around and headed back to the center of the stage to belt out another 20 minutes of smashes, punctuated by an electrifying "Cracklin' Rosie" that vaulted the crowd into the stratosphere.
Welcome back, Mr. Diamond.
Copyright 1998, Moline Dispatch Publishing Co.
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