Diamond memories

The Ottawa Sun

Boomers revel in 'cherished' songs of their youth


OTTAWA -- Like a reverse Spice Girls concert, last night's Neil Diamond show attracted a capacity crowd of nearly 19,000 -- mostly made up of grey-haired (and no-haired) fans.

"If he just stands there and sings all the songs that we cherish, it will bring back all the memories of our youth," said Pembroke resident David Lepage, 58, who made the evening a family affair by attending with his wife, daughter and nephews. "It's good music. Words you can understand and songs you can understand. He appeals to a wide audience."

That sentiment is something that Adam Hobbins, 22, understands. Why would such a young man attend this concert? "Because it's Neil Diamond, my friend. Neil Diamond." Hobbins then added he's been into the music "since I was in my mother's womb." His mother, who was with him, simply nodded.

But along with attracting fans like Jack and Fran Hammond --78 and 75 respectively -- who were seeing Diamond for the first time, there was also a healthy contingent of "Diamondheads" -- a fervent fan base to rival the Grateful Dead's.

These fans, like Judy Rayser and her husband Tom from New Jersey, travel great distances to see their hero. The Raysers took the week off work to attend all of Diamond's Ontario and Quebec dates. Last night's concert was Judy's 79th since the early '80s.

"I've been to 27 states in the U.S. and Canada," she said, adding that Vancouver is the farthest she has travelled. "He's just a fantastic performer, he's sexy, and it's just a fantastic show. I love everything he does and he's neat to watch."

He certainly was "neat" last night.

Standing triumphantly atop a rotating stage like the one the Beastie Boys trucked around on their last tour, the 57-year-old Diamond showed how he's honed his concert shtick to a cutting edge. His Vegas-inspired pseudosincerity was so believable, it didn't matter if he was faking it or not.

It seems almost uncanny that a lone singer could avoid being overwhelmed by a building the size of the Corel Centre (particularly without giant videoscreens or fancy sets, though he did have a great light show), but the larger-than-life Diamond had the audience in the palm of his hand almost the entire time.

The energy level only lagged in the middle during a selection of songs from the film Jonathan Livingston Seagull and a pointless instrumental number.

Nevertheless, Diamond oozed excitement and charisma (if not coolness) the entire time and his voice was in peak form.

Although he was ostensibly touring his newest release, The Movie Album: As Time Goes By, Diamond's selections only briefly touched on the cinematic covers songs -- including Frank Sinatra's I've Got You Under My Skin, Elvis Presley's Can't Help Falling In Love With You, and, of course, a great version of As Time Goes By.

After all, it's his old songs that made him one of North America's top touring solo artists and have sold over 110 million albums.

Waving his arms and shaking his hips, Diamond belted out hits like Shilo, Solitary Man and "Cherry, Cherry. His rendition of Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon was particularly top-notch, although not as satisfyingly creepy as the recent remake by Urge Overkill for Pulp Fiction.

But it was Song Sung Blue, Sweet Caroline and Cracklin' Rosie that got the crowd up on their feet, singing along, clapping and cheering loud enough to put a stadium full of prepubescent girls to shame.

Copyright 1998 The Ottawa Sun

Fan Reviews

by Anna Reddigan
What can I say about last night - I'm still reeling from it. During the performance I had to rub my hands in ice (they were so sore). Why is it that some men age so well? Neil is a testament to this. The last concert I saw him perform at (prior to last night) was in Montreal about six years ago and the difference in his demeanor was quite noticeable. Personally I like the change - he appears more approachable (allowing fans to take pictures), his attitude is very mellow which makes him that much more loveable. (like a good wine) When I saw him in Montreal there appeared to be a very definite barrier but now he is approachable and very much in tune with his audience. Anyway this is my observation on a personal level. I guess you could call me a love struck groupie (but very respectful). I was able to have flowers delivered to him and can only hope he got my card as well. I awoke this morning to the radio at 6:00 a.m. and they were already praising Neil's performance and playing his music. One of the announcers from Majic 100 snuck a tape recorder (to the concert) and played it on the radio this morning "Cherry Cherry". He went on to say it was the best concert he has seen at the Corel Center, much to the agreement of Neil's fans who were calling the radio station this morning with glowing accounts of last nights performance!! I have just taken the time to read the review from The Sun - I guess their review sums it up for all of us Diamond Fans. In case the last part of the column was cut off you have to appreciate it when they say: "got the crowd up on their feet, singing along, clapping and cheering loud enough to put a stadium full of prepubescent girls to shame". Neil will always have that "special magic" which we have come to know so well and will always love about him. This was his first visit to Ottawa and hopefully he will be pleased by the reviews and crowd appreciation that he will return before too long.....

Neil will always has been and always will be be my favorite performer and I would like to send him a great big thank you for appearing in Ottawa. I feel as though I have now shared something extra special with people here who have never had an opportunity to see him before. It's almost as though he has become my special project. Also, in case you or Neil weren't aware of this before, Ottawa crowds tend to be very conservative (very government and hi-tech type) so these reviews actually mean twice as much coming from Ottawa people as anywhere else.

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