by Madonna Yancey
Sitting in the long line of traffic waiting to get into the Roberts Stadium parking lot on Monday night, I asked myself: Is it worth it.
I had seen Neil Diamond many years ago, when he was at the height of his chart-topping popularity. I wondered how his music had held up over the years and if he still had the same stage presence he had back then.
The answers to my questions came pretty quickly, about 8:10 p.m., just moments after the house lights dimmed.
Diamond took the stage in a swirl of brightly colored lights. He got a standing ovation before the first chord had been played. And from the opening notes of "Beautiful Noise" until the final song, he had the audience of more than 11,600 people in the palm of his hand.
Diamond is not possessed of the finest or most powerful singing voice, but he is possessed of an even greater gift: the power to draw an audience into the spell of his music and hold them there. Backed by a stellar nine-piece band, he rocked Roberts Stadium to its rafters in what, in this writer's opinion, is one of the best concerts to roll through Evansville this year.
For the first segment of his show, Diamond delighted his fans with hit after hit. Songs like "Hello Again" and "If You Know What I Mean" sound as fresh today as they did more than 20 years ago.
He then followed with some old-fashioned rock 'n' roll featuring some of his biggest hits, including "Thank the Lord for the Nighttime" and "Cherry Cherry." Taking the tempo down a notch, he moved into some of his most beloved ballads, with songs such as "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon" and the hauntingly beautiful "Solitary Man." He even included "I've Got the Feeling," a song he says he hasn't performed in 25 years. His rousing version of "America," complete with American flags, nearly brought down the house.
And still there was more. Just a few weeks ago, Diamond released a new CD called "The Movie Album," which features songs from a variety of films. His medley from that new CD included standards such as "As Time Goes By," "Unchained Melody," "I've Got You Under My Skin" and the Elvis Presley hit "Can't Help Falling In Love." Instead of merely copying the originals, Diamond has made these songs his own. And once again, the audience responded with thunderous applause.
Could there be more? Of course there could. The fans were getting all they could have asked for. Remember "Sweet Caroline" or "Cracklin' Rosie?" Neil Diamond couldn't leave those out. What surprised me was that after all these years, I still remember every word to every single song. And so, it seems, did most of the audience. I could hear people all around me, barely audible, singing along throughout the entire concert.
Neil Diamond's hair may have grayed a little over the years, but his music still holds up as some of the best of its era. And last night's audience wasn't just filled with baby boomers hungry for a little nostalgia from their youth. The couple sitting next to me was probably in their early 20s. Diamond's music has universal appeal, as he demonstrated with great flair Monday night.
Evansville Indiana Dec 7, 1998.......Arriving 1 hour before show time we found the traffic to be 45 min. thick!! Luckily we made it inside for the start of the show, but I know some that arrived nearly an hour late due to the traffic. I hate to say it to those who arrived late, at no fault of their own, but every minute of this show was solid gold!!
Once inside, one could see that the centered, slowly revolving stage would provide every fan a good seat for the show. The lights dim and Neil takes the stage.....the next 2 hours seem like 2 minutes as one timeless song follows another. Many of his well seasoned songs had a different feel. Almost as though he slowed them down a bit in order to give each song a special touch. Whatever it was it seemed exactly right. There was no doubt of ability here!! Neil's voice sounded to be aging well with time. With such a diverse musical culture today, it was quite a listening pleasure to be grounded and reborn by this magnificent talent!! If his current singing ability is any indication, the best is certainly yet to come!! If you have an opportunity to see this show, better take it.....this performance grabs deep inside.
Thank you Neil for sharing the beautiful noise.
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