Diamond Sparkles In PSU Setting

The Daily News - McKeesport, PA

Who: Neil Diamond
Where: Bryce Jordan Center, State College
BY DAVE FENNESSY Daily News District Editor

STATE COLLEGE, Pa. He is well into his sixth decade, three of those having been spent in recording studios from New York to L.A. to Nashville, and on concert stages from Alaska to Zimbabwe.

His just-released 44th album, As Time Goes By, went platinum before it even went on the shelves two weeks ago, as have most of the previous (albums).

And of the hundreds of songs he has written, co-written and/or sung ‘blue’ and otherwise well, everybody knows at least one.

So, while in theory there may be a musical realm or two left somewhere for him to conquer, Neil Diamond has nothing left to prove.

Not to himself, certainly. Which begs the question, why would a multi-gazillionaire megastar subject himself to the rigors of the road and the high-pressure demands of the concert stage when, at age 57, none would argue he has earned the right to rest on his considerable laurels?

Penn State’s Bryce Jordan Center provided some answers to that question last night about 16,000 answers, in fact.

And Diamond answered those fans right back with a two-hour-long, 29-song set that was both comfortably familiar in form, yet somehow startlingly fresh in style and presentation.

Since the mid-1970s, when he began to wane as a rock star and, instead, assume his position as an icon in the popular music hierarchy, Diamond’s concerts have become almost ritualistic in their presentation. His fans expect to hear certain songs in certain segments, certain segments in a certain order, and they are ready and eager to make the proper responses at the proper times within that framework.

In that sense, last night’s show was true to those expectations.

What may have been unexpected was the renewed power and clarity and increased range of Diamond’s voice. While always a superb studio singer, Diamond’s grasp frequently fell short of his reach on the concert stage, reducing him sometimes to vocal smoke and mirrors to get through some of his more challenging material, particularly in the latter stages of a show.

There was none of that last night, however. Diamond has never been in better voice. He nailed every note of every song. And the result was a tour de force retrospective on his 32-year-old career, touching the highlights from just about every one of them.

Fronting his nine-member band, as usual, Diamond took to the stage with four-song segment that thematically celebrated his return to the stage for the first time since his Tennessee Moon tour two years ago.

After announcing his intention, in song, to fill the evening with Beautiful Noise, Diamond asked the musical question, Can Anybody Hear Me? Assured that there was a packed Jordan Center crowd that was indeed listening, Diamond renewed acquaintances with Hello Again, and If You Know What I Mean.

A twin-guitar intro ala the Allman Brothers, almost from Doug Rhone and Hadley Hockensmith introduced Diamond’s oldies segment Thank the Lord for the Night Time, Cherry Cherry, Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon, Solitary Man, Shilo, and, for the first time in over 25 years (but we’ve been practicing it, Diamond told the crowd), a true-to-the-original version of I Got the Feeling. Play Me, a poignant, bittersweet ballad in its original incarnation, started out just that way, but Diamond couldn’t resist mugging to the women in the crowd when they shouted ‘play me, Neil!’ Forever in Blue Jeans got the entire crowd on its feet, and just as quickly, the Jonathon Livingston Seagull suite returned a contemplative mood.

That didn't last long, though. America started the Jazz Singer segment in rocking fashion, which was followed by Amazed and Confused and, of course, Love on the Rocks from that movie.

Diamond turned the spotlight over to his band for an instrumental rendition of Lament in D Minor/Sabre Dance that showcased his musicians individual and collective virtuosity.

That led into a sampling of material from his new CD, As Time Goes By, including the title tune, Unchained Melody, and tributes to Frank Sinatra (I’ve Got You Under My Skin/One For My Baby) and Elvis Presley (I Can’t Help Falling in Love.)

Diamond signaled he was heading down the home stretch with the perennial sing- along Song Sung Blue, which as always led into Cracklin’ Rosie. The familiar path took a detour when he inserted Sweet Caroline and, with the elegant Linda Press, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers into the mix at that point, but returned to familiar ground with the pseudo show-closing I Am...I Said.

Was there an encore? No. There were three Holly Holy, Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, and I’ve Been This Way Before which is just about all Diamond needed to fill in the remaining gaps.

At one point, Diamond good-naturedly chided the audience into a reprise of Sweet Caroline because, he said, ‘I noticed there were four people still sitting...so we have to do it again.’

By that criteria, Penn State officials should make Diamond reprise his performance tonight there were about four songs from his vast catalogue that he didn’t perform last night.

Still, nobody was complaining.

Diamond Evokes Nostalgia, Romance

The Daily Collegian

by Kate Sharon

Good times never seemed so good.

Neil Diamond sang his classic "Sweet Caroline" and a slew of other greats during a riveting performance Tuesday night at The Bryce Jordan Center.

Diamond brought the 15,642 person-filled house down with his everlasting hits and exuberant showmanship.

Young and old were cast out of their seats by the vivacious, legendary singer and songwriter.

Performing in-the-round with the band that has backed him for 20 years, Diamond rang out the favorites and sampled a few songs from his new album The Movie Album- As Time Goes By.

Rocking with "Forever in Blue Jeans" and "Cherry Cherry" and crooning with "Play Me" and "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," Diamond pleased all.

The sampling from The Movie Album gave the crowd a taster of memorable songs. The songs, as the album title suggests, come from movie soundtracks such as Casablanca ("As Time Goes By") and Ghost ("Unchained Melody"). The nostagic interlude didn't stop there, but continued with a tribute to Frank Sinatra. Diamond sang Old Blue Eyes' rendition of "I've Got You Under My Skin," the song from the film Born To Dance.

Picking up the pace again, Diamond hit the hot spots of the night and had the center hopping with "America," and the favorite "Sweet Caroline" Twice. After playing the song once the mostly standing crowd, Diamond said, "That was an almost perfect rendition of that song. I say almost perfect, because I counted four people still sitting. You know what that means? We have to play it again!"

All bodies in the place stood and put their hands together, unable to refuse the rhythm and vibe of the song.

"When he had everyone stand up- that was the awesomest part," Colleen Diefenbach (sophomore-elementary education) said.

The evening was filled with a sing-song-like atmosphere that united at least three generations in dancing and relishing the moment before the showman of all showmen.

Diamond performed to intimately address every part of the audience. Working the rotating stage, dancing about and waving back to fans -- sending them sky-high after being recognized by the superstar legend -- Diamond had smiles all around.

Never forgetting his musicians, Diamond took a seat for one song, allowing his talented band and sweet-voiced back-up singer to momentarily take the limelight.

Several times during the performance, he would draw the audience's attention to the guitar player during his solo or to his drummers, giving recognition to his musical support.

Diamond drew out the young and the young-at-heart to celebrate songs that symbolize the part of everyone that will remain forever young.

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