Neil Diamond

Concert Reviews - Houston, TX
December 3, 1999

The Houston Chronicle

Diamond gives fans what they came for

By KEN HOFFMAN

Copyright 1999 Houston Chronicle

When Neil Diamond was a teen-ager,

looking out his New York City bedroom

window and scribbling down words that

one day would become monster hits

around the world, his dream was to own

a Gibson acoustic guitar, just like the

one the guitar manufacturer designed

especially for the Everly Brothers.

Forty years later, on a Friday night

in Houston, Diamond told this story to a

packed Compaq Center. Then he strapped

on Gibson's newest custom guitar,

the Neil Diamond model, and strummed

the chords to songs that 15,000

swaying, adoring fans could name in

three notes backward and forward.

Diamond, with a little less on top and

a little more around the waist, performed 2

1/2 hours without a break. He has a

rare command of the stage. Working in the

round, he confidently blended his

greatest hits with three songs from his new CD

of movie classics and even broke out a

holiday chestnut, The Christmas Song.

Diamond has been one of pop music's

most successful concert attractions for his

entire career. He has a full, rich

voice that practically growls on dusty rockers

like I'm a Believer, the No. 1 hit he

wrote for the Monkees, and his own

smashes like Thank the Lord for the

Nighttime, Cracklin' Rosie and Cherry,

Cherry.

He is a very dramatic singer, with

broad gestures that punctuate a song's

emotions. When he sang Hello, Again,

he held his arms out to embrace the

audience with an undeniable sincerity.

Of course, fans erupted for the songs

they remembered hearing on their car's

AM radio, probably the first car they

ever owned. It's difficult to think of one he

didn't play. He clapped his hands,

swiveled his hips and took the audience back

to the '60s with early hits like Sweet

Caroline, Solitary Man and Girl, You'll

Be a Woman Soon.

He did the Jonathan Livingston Seagull

suite from his Grammy-winning

soundtrack, including Be, Skybird and

Lonely Looking Sky. There were songs

from his biggest-selling album, The

Jazz Singer, like Love on the Rocks and

America, with U.S. flags streaming

from the ceiling when he recited the Pledge

of Allegiance.

Hokey? Sure. Did the fans lap up every

moment? Definitely. More people

probably pledged allegiance to the

flag Friday night in Compaq Center than

voted in Saturday's runoff elections.

Another wonderful segment of the show

was Diamond's respectful crafting of the

movie songs As Time Goes By, Unchained

Melody and Can't Help Falling in

Love. He did them beautifully, with

love for these songs in his voice.

Diamond was dressed in a shimmering

blue shirt and black school pants. His hair

was short and combed back. He has

matured into a consummate adult

entertainer, with a warm humor about

himself. He knows his fans, has grown up

with them and delivers exactly what

they expect.

By the time he climbed onstage for his

encores, Soolaimon and Brother Love's

Traveling Salvation Show, he was

exhausted, his shirt was soaked with

perspiration and the audience was

drained from standing ovations and

screaming, "We love you, Neil."


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