Diamond Brings Energy, Familiar Tunes

The Wisconsin State Journal

November 04, 1998
by Natasha Kassulke
While politician's popularity ebbs and flows with the social and economical climate, singer-songwriter Neil Diamond's popularity is a constant. It's been that way throughout his 30-year career and it continued during his nearly-sold-out concert Tuesday night at the Kohl Center.

Diamond's two-hour show started at 8:15 p.m., just after the polls closed in Madison.

And while the political losers were crying in their corners around Dane County, Diamond was breaking out his baritone and dancing in black pants and striped shirt.

About 17,000 fans clapped and sang along, as Diamond dealt heavy doses of romance, sentiment and sex appeal from butt wiggling right out of a "Buns of Steel" workout video to winking and waving.

"Is that all the students that I just heard?", Diamond wondered as the crowd screamed and applauded. "I hope you don't have early classes because we plan to be here late."

The show opened with old Diamond favorites such as "Shilo", "Cherry, Cherry", "Solitary Man," "I Am...I Said," "Cracklin' Rosie," "Forever in Blue Jeans" and a version of "America" that featured four flags dropping from the rafters.

But new to this tour are highlights from Diamond's "The Movie Album:As Time Goes By" two CD set which was released on Oct. 27.

Among the movie songs he featured for the mostly middle-age crowd (although there were a few teen-agers and 20-somethings singing right along), was "Unchained Melody" from "Ghost", Frank Sinatra's "I've Got You Under My Skin" from "Born to Dance" and Elvis' "Can't Help Falling in Love" from "Blue Hawaii".

The staging was old to Diamond, but new to many Madison fans. It was set in the round and slowly revolved like it did during his "Love in the Round" tour.

A blond woman broke through the invisible barrier between Diamond and his fans. She reached for Diamond and when security tried to stop her, Diamond told them to let her go.

She touched his hand and followed up with a passionate kiss that sent the Brooklyn star tumbling to the floor during "You Don't Bring Me Flowers."

Watching was Diamond's longtime and talented nine-piece band.

They joined in on Diamond's tribute to his Grammy Award-winning motion picture score, "Jonathon Livingston Seagull" a short stop at "The Jazz Singer" soundtrack, "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" which Urge Overkill remade for the "Pulp Fiction" soundtrack along with such Diamond concert staples as "Sweet Caroline," "Song Sung Blue," "Holly Holy" and the revivalist "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show".

At times, fans' screaming interrupted Diamond's delivery but he schmaltzed his way through it and palyed along, managing to scold without being too stern.

Other fans looked like they took tips from the World Wrestling Federation's recent Kohl Center stop. They came with banners requesting their favorite catchy tunes and wedding classics, and sometimes, just to say "Hello Again."

Fan Reviews

by Paul M. Bacon (Madison, WI) November 3
When I mentioned to a friend that I was going to see Neil Diamond in concert, he half-jokingly asked "Isn't he dead?" Certainly not! And if Tuesday nights concert is any indication of the 57 year old performer's longevity, then I'd say he has at least another 57 years to look forward to.

For two hours Neil effortlessly led the crowd of 17,000+ on an emotional journey through the range of classic Diamond standards. Opening with "Beautiful Noise" and "Hello Again," Neil then hopped in the way-back machine to revive "I Got the Feelin'," "Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon," "Thank the Lord for the Nightime," and "Cherry Cherry," four favorites from his early years. He then eased gracefully into the 70's once again. The "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" medley was not quite the movingly sublime tribute that many Diamond fans will recall from the wildly successful "Love at the Greek" concert 20 years hence, but it was still good to hear these songs rediscovered yet again.

The one departure from the cavalcade of Diamond hits was a brief visit to the performer's recently released Movie Album. I thought Neil covered "As Time Goes By" and "Unchained Melody" much more handily in concert than on the album, in fact. And perhaps sensing that no one could ever hope to approach Sinatra's mastery of "I've Got You Under My Skin" and "One for My Baby (One More for the Road)," Neil's slower, introspective treatment of this Sinatra Suite made the tribute to the Chairman of the Board all the more moving. As the medley drew to a close, Diamond stood alone beside his stool center stage, head hanging low, as the lights faded to black. Some may describe this as "cheesy". A more appropriate adjective, and the one I would choose, is "classy."

Those who were disappointed by the absence of "I've Been This Way Before" at a previous concert will be happy to know that he once again ended the evening with this moving ballad from his 1974 album Serenade. All in all a very satisfying evening. No one left the Kohl Center disappointed.

Copyright 1998 The Wisconsin State Journal

We attended Neil's concert at the Kohl Center in Madison, WI Tues evening [11/3] and I want to say that the concert went way beyond all expectations...I have always said that if God could sing he would sound like Neil Diamond ..the concert was just superb..Neil's voice could tear into your soul..the lighting effects...the band... it was a wish come true...let me add more to this ...in Oct. of '82 we were married in vegas and our wedding song was ‘Hello Again’..then to have Neil bring that song out as his second selection ..WOW!

We do have to differ him on one thing he said during his concert and that was his reference to Frank Sinatra....Neil.. you are way better than Frank ever was.

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