Diamond puts on gem of a show

The Des Moines Register

Nearly inexhaustible string of hits keeps 12,342 fans shouting and clapping.


Brooklyn-born pop star Neil Diamond inspires fan worship second only to Elvis Presley, struts around the stage as boldly as Tom Jones and draws from a song catalog nearly as universal as Frank Sinatra"s.

Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum in Ames he charmed a roaring, packed house about 13,000 strong - or 12,342 according to Diamond himself, who dropped the number into a verse of "Sweet Caroline."

Longtime fans and Gen X converts alike screamed and clapped in time to the music.

During a rush of his oldest hits early in the concert, Diamond, with his acoustic guitar pressed against his sequin-studded torso, definitely possessed a Presleyan swagger.

"I have a craving to do some old-fashioned rock "n" roll for you tonight," he said, and then guitarists Doug Rhone and Hadley Hockensmith traded a few wailing solos that led into "Thank the Lord for the Night Time." That song and "Cherry, Cherry" especially found Diamond"s nine-piece band in tight form, flexing its musical muscle.

After 30-plus years in the live music biz, Diamond has his stage act down pat, and Wednesday night"s theater-in-the-round performance was no different. Like the overeager Jones, many of Diamond"s sweeping concert gestures were so larger-than-life as to seem just a little outrageous. But the gestures were also disarming and forced even the most cynical to smile and sing along. From his shouted lyrics ("Come take me!") that incited the audience to his constantly outstretched hand and slow foxtrot around the revolving stage, Diamond was an earnest ringmaster. It worked, especially during two consecutive renditions of "Forever In Blue Jeans."

He suffered a little bit of a croaky voice during the concert"s opening song, "Beautiful Noise," but from there through "Forever In Blue Jeans," momentum and song-wise, Diamond"s best glitter gleamed.

His overblown, half-narrated "Jonathan Livingston Seagull" batch of songs nearly brought the concert to a dead halt. He recovered with selections from his "Jazz Singer" heyday.

Pulling songs off his latest studio album, "The Movie Album: As Time Goes By," Diamond really did kill the momentum. The deathly slow arrangements lacked charm, and two Sinatra songs ("I"ve Got You Under My Skin" and "One For My Baby") sounded haphazardly mixed together.

But Diamond recovered again by diving back into his seemingly inexhaustible well of sure-fire, crowd-pleasing hits - "Song Sung Blue," "Cracklin" Rosie," "Sweet Caroline."

"That"s all right! We got all night!" he yelled for emphasis, instead of merely singing his familiar words. All night didn"t seem too long when Diamond stuck to the songs and bright pop energy that secured his career.

Copyright 1998 The Des Moines Register

Diamond's voice a true gem

The Iowa State Daily

by Corey Moss

A Neil Diamond concert is like a catholic mass. Stand up. Sit down. Stand up. Sit down And although this ballad/dance song/ballad pattern is ideal for the majority of Diamond's Viagra-dependent fans, it seems a bit off-kilter to the typical Gen-Xer. Luckily, Diamond has the rare ability to entertain solely through his magnificent voice; so it doesn't matter if he's jamming through "America" or story-telling through "I Am I Said."

Neil's voice was a Diamond in the rough (so to speak) Wednesday night at Hilton Coliseum, rescuing a performance hindered by a weak opening and closing and a nine-member back-up band that was hardly noticeable. From the opening notes of "Beautiful Noise" to the closing gospel number, Diamond's voice was solid and unforgettably charming.

Dressed in a zebra-striped sequin shirt and snug black pants (which made his fading hair look even grayer), Diamond began the show with a handful of slow-paced classics, topped off with a sincere version of "Hello Again."

Touting his signature hand gestures and fancy feet dance maneuvers, he didn't waste any time showing the near 13,000 in attendance why he is the King of Cheese. The real fun began when Diamond was handed a guitar, which he used to escape into "Cherry, Cherry," "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon" and "Solitary Man."

Diamond lit the building with a smile that proved the singer is still enjoying himself after 30 years in the business. His band showed the same enthusiasm, unfortunately their talents were not as visible under low volume constraints.

Diamond hit a high point midway through his two-hour set with rocking versions of "Forever In Blue Jeans" and "America."

"On the subject of 'The Jazz Singer,'" he said as he began "Love On The Rocks," which was followed by an instrumental band showcase tune straight out of the Mannheim Steamroller collection.

Promoting his new "Movie Album," Diamond then sung an awesome selection of film classics that included "As Time Goes By," "Unchained Melody," "I've Got You Under My Skin," and "Can't Help Falling In Love.

Diamond's covers of Frank Sinatra and Elvis Presley were top notch and showed why the singer is often placed in the same category of singers as the late legends. Diamond followed by again diving into his well of classics, dueting "Song Sung Blue" and "Cracklin' Rosie" with his enthusiastic fans.

Interrupting roars of cheer was the familiar bass line "do do do, do do do do do," of "Sweet Caroline." And Diamond picked it up beautifully with a goose-bump-inducing "Where it began "

The anthem of all ages was a huge hit, but the show went downhill from there. A less than romantic version of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" introduced a muster of mushy stage numbers that would last until the evening's end. If there was a true Million Dollar Man it would be Diamond and all million would be in those trusty vocal chords.

Neil Diamond is a class act -- only Gen-Xers are much more prone to a good party than class.

This article was published on Friday, December 4, 1998.

Copyright 1998 by the Iowa State Daily Publications Board. All rights reserved.

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