Diamond rolls through career of gems
BY JAY WEBBER
Thirty songs. Thirty immediately recognizable, timeless pop classics delivered with style. Thousands of longtime Neil Diamond fans received the full supply of hits Tuesday night at Firstar Center, showing why, even two decades removed from the pop charts, Neil Diamond remains a huge concert draw.
Performing in the round on a rotating stage, the famous singer/songwriter took the stage in black pants and a black sequined shirt Forever in Blue Jeans is only a metaphor and performed with an energy that belied his 58 years.
Though opening the evening with, among others, the up-tempo Beautiful Noise and Crunchy Granola, the show was slow to get rolling. The momentum was soon discovered, though, in the name of the beautiful Shilo and Play Me, followed closely by the crowd rousing Blue Jeans and I'm a Believer, the Monkees' hit written by Mr. Diamond.
The evening focused almost entirely on Mr. Diamond's prolific decades of songwriting, with only minimal chatter between the star and the audience. In one notable exception, Mr. Diamond paused to praise mu sic's power and its ability to bring people of different worlds together. He urged his audience to break down the walls, and suggested his fans turn and give the person seated next to him or her a kiss.
Never before has having an aisle seat next to an empty seat seemed more fortuitous.
On the heels of the flag-waving America, came a hit-and-miss sampling of selections from Mr. Diamond's latest CD, The Movie Album. While As Time Goes By and Can't Help Falling in Love were fine matches for Mr. Diamond's skills, the Righteous Brothers' incomparable Unchained Melody is best left in the hands of Bobby Hatfield.
Before too many became comfortable in their seats and with the 130 minute show winding down, Mr. Diamond launched his second winning streak of the night with Cracklin' Rosie, an extended, audience participation version of Sweet Caroline and You Don't Bring Me Flowers.
Flowers featured the talents of
vocalist Linda Press, one of Mr. Diamond's nine backing musicians. At its conclusion, Mr.
Diamond and Ms. Press embraced in a loving kiss. Interestingly, Ms. Press' husband happens
to be Mr. Diamond's bass player. Ah, show business!
Fan Review: Tom Tagliente, Solon, Ohio
NEIL DIAMOND CONCERT at FIRSTAR ARENA
Tuesday, December 7th, 1999
This will be (FOR ME AT LEAST) the last Neil Diamond
concert for this century. And, while that saddens me
I can't help but remember what a century it has been.
The Kennedy Assassination, The CHALLENGER explosion,
which killed High School Teacher Christa McAuliffe,
the removal of The Berlin Wall, and of course the
tragic death of one of Neil's biggest fans, Princess
Diana. Whom we all miss dearly.
Of course, this century also saw a great trend in
popular culture. Shows like, FALCON CREST, THE
HONEYMOONERS, DALLAS, WHO WANTS TO BE A MILLIONAIRE?
We also saw great trends in music. Especially with
birth of one of the GREATEST musical poets of the 20th
Century, Neil Diamond. Need I say more???
I was introduced to Neil through his film THE JAZZ
Favorite song of today, tomorrow, and forever?
AMERICA. ( I miss the orchestra playing the intro,
but the new version is fine, too). My favorite
version is in THE JAZZ SINGER ending.
This century has seen the best come (NEIL DIAMOND),
and the best go (FRANK SINATRA, DEAN MARTIN, SAMMY
DAVIS JR.). Last night was a night that I will never
forget, and it was night I was sure sad to see "go".
After mingling with other Neil Diamond fans and
getting the scoop on their favorite songs, I went to
my seat. I drove from Cleveland, Ohio to see him one
last time this century. From what I saw and heard
last night, it was worth EVERY mile of the 4 hour
Settling in my seat at 7p.m., I did two things. I
looked through the tour book, and I watched the stage
crew make the final preparations for the launch of The
Space Shuttle, DIAMOND. And what a flight it was. It
started at 8:19p.m.
T-Minus 1 minute 20 seconds (THE LIGHTS GO DOWN)
T-Minus 45 seconds (A NEIL DIAMOND HIT MEDLEY BEGINS)
T-Minus 40 seconds (THE BAND TAKES THEIR PLACE)
T-Minus 30 seconds (THE BAND REPLACES THE MEDLEY)
T-Minus 10 seconds (NEIL IS INTRODUCED)
T-Minus 0 (NEIL DIAMOND ARRIVES TO HOARDS OF CHEERS)
The mission lasted 2 hours and 25 minutes. And, no
turbulence was felt throughout the entire journey.
Here are the Post-Flight highlights:
He opened the concert with BEAUTIFUL NOISE, and asked
the crowd of about 19,000, CAN ANYBODY HEAR ME? To
which we all made our presence known to him. And, he
reciprocated with a welcoming HELLO AGAIN when he
said, "I think about you, every night." And, from our
response, many of us though the same thing about him.
The only thing missing from HELLO AGAIN, was the
appearance of Lucie Arnaz, whose character in THE JAZZ
SINGER (Where the song is from), inspired this
He throttled back the rockets to 75% percent thrust
when he hit three older tunes, and Doug Rhone, and
Hadley Hockensmith fought for control of the pressure
gauges as they played the intro to THANK THE LORD FOR
THE NIGHT TIME, and Diamond thanked it too, joining in
with his rich baritone voice, leading the rest of his
band to follow suit. We thank Neil Diamond night all
night long, too.
>From there, he swept right into CHERRY, CHERRY and
SOLITARY MAN (which I can relate with very well). I
was very moved.
I noticed something strange. A phenomenon that took
place all night long. Every time he played an upbeat
hit, my lap would disappear and I would find myself
standing like a "REAL" fan.
Not like those people who claim to be fans, and then
complain when you stand up in front of them, and they
can't see Neil.
My advice to all of you kind of fans? Stand up, too.
I was very disappointed that not many others had the
courage to show their appreciation like I did. How
can you go to a Neil Diamond concert, and sit through
every song like you were dragged there kicking and
The songs continued onward. SHILO, which has seen
gloomier days on a studio cut on his album of the same
name, took on a newer, much younger form, and he sang
it like a seasoned professional.
He also did a biographical song, BROOKLYN ROADS. "I
remember growing up just up the road from Cincinnati,
in a place called Brooklyn, New York!" (Just up the
road by about 1,450 miles.) He has a way of making
his audiences feel warm, welcomed, and appreciated.
And we felt all that and more. He warmed us up inside
from the bitter cold outside.
>From there, he wound into FOREVER IN BLUE JEANS,
moving along the outer perimeter of the stage like a
cobra about to strike at any moment. He saved the
repeated choruses for another song, later in the
After he realized his blue jeans were on forever (he
decided to relax from trying to remove them, and
revisited his journey with JONATHAN LIVINGSTON
He sang, appropriately enough, five key phrases from
the song: BE, LONELY LOOKING SKY, DEAR FATHER,
SKYBIRD, and an encore of BE.
Then came the song that converted me into a Neil
Diamond desciple. AMERICA. I remembered to bring my
leather USA jacket with me. "That was one journey."
he said. "But there is another journey to discuss.
The journey my grandparents made over 100 years ago.
To find prosperity, and freedom, and peace. And, they
found...A M E R I C A !!!!!!!!!"
This is where he pushed the rockets to 104% of
throttled thrust, and kept them there for the
remaining portion of the show.
I remember jumping up on my feet, and from there,
found myself singing AMERICA with Neil at the top of
my lungs. Most of the crowd was on their feet with
me, too. He didn't deviate once. His voice never
cracked. he hit every word of AMERICA with punch,
pizazz, and the vitality that most other rockers of
middle age could only dream about possessing. He
wound up the song with four Official Sized American
Flags dropping from the rafters of the arena when he
reflected with "My country tis of thee." The crowd
shouted every TODAY back to him. Next came LOVE ON
THE ROCKS. Another song from THE JAZZ SINGER.
Frank Sinatra would've been jealous if he were
watching from Heaven.
He took a break from the dancing and singing to allow
nine of his closest friends to have their 15 minutes
in the limelight. And, they played brilliantly. Neil
didn't leave the stage, but just sat at one end of the
two ramps leading up to the top center of the round
platform, and he sat grooving with them. He was
having fun. They were having fun, and WE were ALL
having fun, listening to LAMENT IN D MINOR/DANCE OF
Only one friend was not present. Drummer Ron Tutt
(who plays his drum set as effortlessly as Al Bundy
sitting on his couch watching television), was home
recovering from a minor heart attack. This was
information given me by a fan, so I'm not 100% percent
clear on this.
Neil then took his spaceship to the portion of the
flight when the solid rocket boosters separate from
the craft, and moved us into the atmosphere on a
smooth-as-glass cruise through AS TIME GOES BY,
UNCHAINED MELODY, and I CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE
WITH YOU (a song made famous by Elvis Presley), from
THE MOVIE ALBUM.
Neil Diamond also released two Christmas albums in
recent years, and he sang one of them to us last
night. The simple tune, with a simple title to
remember, THE CHRISTMAS SONG. He wished us a Merry
Christmas, as well as Happy Hanuuka, and retreated to
more of HIS songs.
"How about we do some songs from this guy Neil Diamond
We all agreed it was time, and he delivered. We
thundered through the last of Earth's O-Zone layer,
and rumbled through SOLITARY MAN, which segued into
CRACKLIN' ROSIE. Everyone was up dancing, and
swinging with him.
Then came the most memorable part of the flight for me
to book-end the power and goose-bumps of AMERICA.
Neil moved to the BIG crowd pleaser...SWEET CAROLINE,
and had everyone up on their feet singing and dancing
some more. Only this time, he did something he used
to do with FOREVER IN BLUE JEANS, he repeated the
chorus for us once.
Putting his hands on his hips, he chided us. "I
suppose you want to hear that one again?" We all
shouted our approval. He said, "Okay." But it's
going to take lots of practice. Are you up for it?"
He didn't need to ask us THAT question...but we all
responded and played along with the humor.
So there we were, 19,450 Neil Diamond fans enrolled in
THE SWEET CAROLINE 101 COURSE FOR BEGINNERS.
He guided us along like a strict nun in Catholic
school with a wicked sense of humor, swinging an arm
and cutting the air. "Rehearsal! Rehearsal!
Rehearsal! I want it PERFECT!!!"
So, we sang along. Only he changed it a little, and
made it more interesting.
"First we sing, Sweet Caroline...then you say Wa Wa
Wa!" He directed us with his opened hand. "Try it!"
We did. "Perfect!"
We were then instructed by Professor Diamond on the
"Good times never seemed so good." He then added.
"You then say four times, "Oh yeah! Oh Yeah! Oh Yeah!
Oh Yeah! Got it? Try it!!!" We did. Perfectly!
"YOU GOT IT!!! HERE WE GO!!!
The music began, and we took the professors test.
And, we sang with him. All of the final 16 bars of
SWEET CAROLINE. And, we had fun. Oh, and we passed
his test with flying colors. The 'Oh Yeah's" sounded
great with the beat of the song.
Just then, The Space Shuttle, DIAMOND began its
descent into the atmosphere for I AM, I SAID. The
biographical song in which he asks, "Did you ever read
about a frog who dreamed of being a king? And, who
became one?" We all hear him, and so did our chairs.
He walked toward the ladder of the stage, and after
realizing The Space Shuttle, DIAMOND had not landed on
Earth quite yet, he said. "I think we have a few more
left in us yet!"
He swung into SOOLAIMON, building from a soft rhythm,
to an infectious beat which had fans clapping along.
After that, be retreated to the south to take on the
role of Brother Love, a fictional preacher with a
revival called, BROTHER LOVES TRAVELING SALVATION
Unlike other shows (LOVE IN THE ROUND, and TENNESSEE
MOON), the center section of the stage did not rise up
another three feet, and flood the audience with bright
spot lights (one of two things I missed about his
"Brothers and sisters! Little bitty children! Black
& white! Rich & poor! Gay & straight! Great &
small! God's children all! God's children!"
You almost felt as if you were at a revival in the
south. But, we were only in Cincinnati. well for me
it was south. Four hours south of Cleveland.
One song I would've liked to have heard, and which
wasn't played, was HOLLY HOLY. Every other aspect of
the show was outstanding.
Then, he brought the ship down to a thunderous
landing, which echoed with the fanfare of BROTHER
LOVE'S TRAVELING SALVATION SHOW, and he walked through
the doorway with his finger pointing out "NUMBER ONE"
in the air, and his band followed suit.
Then the lights came on, and the flight crew began
dismantling his musical spaceship with the speed and
ease of a futuristic gazelle.
Onto the next city, Indianapolis for their launch time
of 8p.m. on December 8th.
One aspect about the Cincinnati concert which changed
my life. During the show Neil mentioned that the
Gibson Guitar Company released a SPECIAL ISSUE NEIL
DIAMOND GIBSON GUITAR. I will be buying one, and
l4eaning all of Neil's songs on it. Any Neil Diamond
fan who loves music, owes it to Neil, and to
themselves, to purchase one of these guitars, and
learn his music on it.
Once again, Neil Diamond played a FANTASTIC concert.
The fans were a little more conservative than in
Columbus and Cleveland, but all the same, it was fun.
NOTE: I sat near the lighting director's control
board. As I was leaving I was told from a reliable
source (HIS LIGHTING DIRECTOR) that the New Year's Eve
concert Neil is performing WILL be videotaped. Look
for it next year in videostores nationwide. And, I
hope he does SWEET CAROLINE in the futuristic version
with the crowd doing the music lesson.
As for me, I am very sad that the greatest part of
this century (THE RELEASE OF THE JAZZ SINGER, AS WELL
AS ATTENDING 12 CONCERTS), is now coming to a close.
I only hope that when the next century starts, Neil
Diamond will remain a part of it for many years to
come. And, the tours will continue. Right Neil? :)
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