Diamond’s show classy, energetic, fun

The Hamilton Spectator

by Hugh Fraser

Upon entering Copps Coliseum, it was obvious Neil Diamond’s soldout shows would be one that just dripped with class.

The music that soothed the savage beasts gathering in their seats was all classical.

Mozart’s Flute and Harp concerto, nice little bits from Johann Quantz and trumpetings from Jeremiah Clarke, not the sort of thing usually relied on to whip the crowd into a frenzy for the Big Star to ride in on.

The reason must be that Diamond doesn’t need a ride from anyone or anything. The moment he boogied on stage, the crowd rose to its feet in ecstacy, making the most incredible din you’ve ever heard.

One gentleman, bald, bespectacled and not young, dressed in a light grey suit, neatly white-shirted and tied looked like he should be toting his briefcase around the APEC summit in Malaysia, instead punched the air in utter abandon, as Diamond charged in to his opening song, Beautiful Noise.

And the classiness didn’t end there.

The soundscape Diamond provided with his excellent nine-piece band of 20 years was a pleasure to the ear.

The volumes went from a conversational 78 decibels to a peak of a very-acceptable 107 decibels during some of Diamond’s more rock-and-roll (OK, rock-and-wriggle) flavoured songs such as Can Anybody Hear Me?, Cherry Cherry, and I Got the Feelin’. This meant that every word could be understood and the music actually heard. This alone would make me an instant and permanent member of the Neil Diamond fan club.

He looked older than I thought he would from the sound of his voice and his dynamic presence. This is a fact he laughs at by joking with the crowd that the last time he was in Hamilton ‘must have been 1942 - its been too long,’ and then launching smoothly into Hello Again, sending the carefully coiffed ladies around me into another frenzy.

But his age has nothing to do with his energy levels. He came onstage shortly after 8 PM and without an intermission and pausing only for a single tune by the band to showcase their many talents (Sabre Dance), he sang 31 songs, on of them twice, Sweet Caroline.

The highlights for me were the Sanctus from Jonathan Livingston Seagull that didn’t last nearly long enough, and a delightful You Don’t Bring Me Flowers that featured the truly lovely voice of backup singer Linda Press.

you have to be this good just to be a backup singer? If she ever comes to Copps with her own show, I’ll be there with bells on.

The low points came, surprisingly, from his new CD: The Movie Album: As Time Goes By. In this segment he did a Sinatra tribute of I’ve Got You Under My Skin and {One For My Baby} pressed together into a musical meat loaf, and I didn’t like it.

Sinatra got his oomph from a miraculous effortlessness, Diamond gets his from a relentless push. One isn’t right or the other wrong, it’s just that they don’t mix well and the comparisons they make are odious.

It was a relief when he said ‘Let’s get back to some Neil Diamond,’ and he and the crowd could revert to what they came for, bouncing on their feet while yelling a long happily to Forever in Blue Jeans, Cracklin’ Rosie, Love on the Rocks, and sighing and dabbing Kleenex through Play Me and Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon.

By the time the second encore, Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, brought the house down, and the third, I’ve Been This Way Before, was sighed and dabbed over, we all needed a rest.

Copyright 1998 The Hamilton Spectator

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