Neil Diamond glitters as he sets fans all aglow

The Buffalo News

By MARY KUNZ, News Staff Reviewer

There’s something overwhelming about a Neil Diamond show.

First of all, the fans. Thousands of Neil Diamond fans, all gathered in one place! Think about it.

Second, the preshow announcements. Be in your seats when the lights dim!

During the first song you will not be seated! And so forth, as if we were boarding the Mind Eraser.

Lastly, thereNeil himself.

No one is neutral about Neil Diamond. People love him or hate him, but for the same reason: The man has no awareness of excess. No tiny alarm ever bleeps in his head and tells him, Neil you’re taking this a bit too far.

Traditionally, his songs are ponderous and full of bombast. But a big number like Coming to America gains a whole new dress size when Diamond sings it in person. ‘TODAY!’ he shouts at song’s end. He’s wearing, by the way, a glittery black shirt, black pants and a belt, an ensemble that resembles -- dare I say it? -- a jumpsuit. ‘TODAY!’ he yells, arms outstretched, as the near sold-out crowd screams. And when he intones, ‘My country, tis of thee...’ four American flags drop from overhead.

Diamond is getting a little hoary. His voice is scratchy, too, and he could use a haircut (while he’s made an effort to trim his hair, he could go further with it). But he delivered what the audience demanded. There’s nothing subtle about this man.

There doesn’t seem to be anything phony about him, either. He maintained unflinching eye contact with the audience. While it got a bit much as he sang ‘Touching me -- touching you’ in Sweet Caroline with his hand on his heart, his good nature was evident.

His gestures looked genuine, although few could resist giggling as he blew exaggerated kisses.

And he did one funny thing I don’t think I’ve ever seen a big-name performer do: While his nine-piece band played it’s one instrumental, in the middle of the two-hour show, Diamond didn’t leave the stage, but sat, grooving.

This man enjoys show biz.

We heard it all Wednesday night. Cracklin’ Rose, Holly Holy, Forever in Blue Jeans, Song Sung Blue, etc.

Diamond broke for a bunch of movie tunes including As Time Goes By and Unchained Melody, which showed that beneath that bombast, there’s a baritone voice thats nice, if a little shop-worn. When he announced I’ve Got You Under My Skin as a Sinatra tribute, a guy behind me said, ‘Now he’s pushing it.’ When is Neil not pushing it?

Then Neil snapped out of it. ‘Lets do a Neil Diamond song!’ he exclaimed.People went wild.

You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, a duet with the backup singer, a woman in an outrageous Stevie Nicks-style dress, followed. They ended it in a long lip lock. ‘What’s going on here?’ demanded the wag behind me.

Encores included the cryptic I Am, I Said. The night ended as it began -- all stops pulled out. Neil Diamond would have it no other way.

Copyright 1998 The Buffalo News

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