Neil Diamond

Concert Reviews - Indianapolis, IN
December 8, 1999

Diamond's oldies are gems, but the polish is gone

By Rita Rose
The Indianapolis Star

INDIANAPOLIS (Thu. Dec. 9, 1999) -- Neil Diamond is, well, slowing down.

His great legacy of songs and his enthusiasm are still there, and he knows how to make a sellout crowd -- especially the women -- go nuts. But his voice is showing the strain of time across thousands of concerts and 40 record albums, which was apparent in his concert Wednesday night at Conseco Fieldhouse.

"We've been coming here for 31 years, and they finally put up a new building for us to play in," he joked.

More often than not, his 21/2-hour set consisted of slower versions of hits such as Hello Again, Solitary Man and Play Me. Even Brooklyn Roads was a longer journey. Is he just trying to breathe different life into old tunes, or is the 58-year-old singer slowing down his pace?

Diamond always has used a somewhat talky style of singing, but nearly every tune he did had more talking and shouting of lyrics than holding on to the notes. It's as though he saved up his energy for only certain tunes, such as I Thank The Lord for the Night Time, Cherry Cherry and a definite crowd favorite, America.

On Be, the lovely theme from the movie Jonathan Livingston Seagull, he started out slowly, then picked up the pace for a solid version of that tune. Love on the Rocks, one of Diamond's best offerings of the evening, often was drowned out by the band. And on Solitary Man, the band seemed to get ahead of him several times.

The beginning of Forever In Bluejeans was almost unrecognizable both musically and lyrically, but it quickly became one of the best crowd movers of the evening. In the past, Diamond has done this song for a good 10 minutes; Wednesday's version was normal length, but that didn't diminish its fun.

A highlight was the unplugged-but-amplified Diamond as he played Cherry, Cherry on his acoustic guitar, showing great musicianship. He reminisced about wanting a black, acoustic guitar as a youngster and was thrilled when he finally got it. Now Gibson has put out a Neil Diamond guitar, a fact that obviously pleases him greatly.

The best set of the show that I was able to hear before leaving 45 minutes early to write on deadline was a trio of tunes on his 1998 release, The Movie Album. Diamond's voice soared on standards such as Unchained Melody, Can't Help Falling In Love and As Time Goes By.

Diamond knows how to connect with his audience, throwing kisses and playing to those in the first couple of rows. The revolving stage for the in-the-round show gave all sides of the arena equal views of the singer and his nine-piece band.

Perhaps we should forgive Diamond for taking a slower concert journey as he grows older and has shed his jeans for casual slacks. But it's hard. I can remember when he really rocked.

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