Neil Diamond

Concert Reviews - Cincinnati, OH
December 7, 1999

Diamond rolls through career of gems

The Cincinnati Enquirer

CONCERT REVIEW


BY JAY WEBBER
Enquirer contributor

        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

SINGER.

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

drive.

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

beautiful hit.

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

screaming?

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

flight.

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

SEAGULL.

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

THE SABRES.

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

now?"

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

next verse.

"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

SHOW.

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

show).

"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? :)

       


Back to the Neil Diamond Home Page || 1998-99 Concert Review Page