by Michael Lisi
For his fans, a Neil Diamond concert can be akin to a near-religious experience.
Listening to the 57-year-old crooners voice rise and swell during the final choruses of bombastic anthems like America routinely brings his legions of cheering, middle-aged Diamond-heads to the brink of tears.
Ah yes, theres nothing quite like a Neil Diamond concert.
It got pretty religious at the Pepsi Arena on Friday night, where Diamond simply wowed the near sell-out crowd with more than two hours of non-stop hits - all sung from a revolving, 14-sided, spaceship-looking stage in the middle of the venue.
Diamond, who last visited the Capital Region in 1993, seemed genuinely excited to be back in town, yelling out, Hello again, Albany before launching into Beautiful Noise to open the show.
Wearing black slacks and a shimmering black sequined shirt with thin red, orange, yellow and blue sequined stripes, Diamond filled the first hour of his show with nothing but hits.
Fan favorites like Love on the Rocks and September Morn all sounded lush, Diamonds voice big, full, and booming.
But one of the shows highlights came when Diamond strapped on a black acoustic guitar and started strumming and singing his trademark three-chord rockers from the 1960s.
He did it all, knocking our upbeat versions of Thank the Lord for the Nighttime, Cherry Cherry, Girl Youll be a Woman Soon, Solitary Man, and even Shilo.
And it sounded great. Its true, Neil Diamond can still rock. Things took a turn when Diamond offered up an epic, self-indulged medley from the Jonathan Livingston Seagull. One song, OK. But five? It was a bit much.
Diamonds passionate version of America helped put the seagull songs out of mind. Suddenly, fans were on their feet, screaming, waving like teen-agers at a Hanson show; it was as if a giant middle-aged mosh pit could have formed at any time.
You gotta love a guy thats as old as your dad who can still create that kind of chaos -- wearing a sequined shirt no less.
He kept the excitement level very high with versions of Play Me and You Dont Bring Me Flowers as well as an electric read of Amazed and Confused from The Jazz Singer album.
Diamond finished a rousing read of Sweet Caroline only to kick up a few more choruses after he kiddingly chastised a few fans in the front seats for sitting down during the song.
Even trite fare like Forever in Blue Jeans and Song Sung Blue went over big.
If there was one true downer to Diamonds show, it was when he began singing motion picture theme songs from his new record, The Movie Album.
Diamond can do a lot of things, but he cant sing Sinatra. Period.
His version of Franks Ive Got You Under My Skin was well......it wasnt pretty. That goes double for his read of Elvis Presleys Cant Help Falling In Love. If fans were confused by that Las Vegas-style musical detour, all was forgiven once Diamond and his nine-piece band kicked into Cracklin Rosie and proceeded to deliver the knockout punch with renditions of I Am...I Said
... and Holly Holy. And thats not even counting the encores.
Here's my summary of last night's performance by Neil Diamond at the Pepsi Arena in
Albany: FANTASTIC!!! Neil is a true performer, he plays his audience perfectly and his
audience responds in kind. Believe me, there were over 16,000 happy souls last night!
I understand that Neil is planning a concert in Boston at the Fleet sometime in 1999. Believe me, I'll be there!
Excellent 3rd row seats for what was a great show... Neil played 2 hours and brought the house down... I especially loved the diversity of fans Teenagers to seniors..and all had a great time!
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