Neil Diamond show gave crowd plenty of hits, few misses


O.K., so Neil Diamond doesn't approach the ground-breaking creativity of the Beatles. And he isn't exactly the screaming showman that Garth Brooks is. Maybe he doesn't have (quite) the vocal talent of Frank Sinatra.

But Diamond brought what he does have - considerable song-writing ability, a deep voice that has stood the test of time and the ability to captivate a crowd - to Charleston Wednesday night.

Those in the near-capacity crowd who paid $39.50 for seats got their money's worth at the Charleston Civic Center. And those who received some of the thousands of free tickets given away through local businesses got more than that.

Diamond, a fairly fit 57 years old, took his place atop a rotating circular stage to "Beautiful Noise" and spent more than two hours enticing the crowd to stand and sing or sit and sway, depending on the mood.

From 1966 hits like "Solitary Man," "Cherry, Cherry," and the rarely performed "I Got the Feelin' (Oh, No,No)" to Sinatra and Elvis Presley covers on his just-released album of movie soundtrack, Diamond went through all of his thirty-three year career.

Believe it or not, his wardrobe actually has changed in that span. Although the black sequin shirt worn Wednesday night might have fit better in the 1970s, Diamond actually started out his career playing more rock, dressed in a black leather jacket and T-shirt.

His Charleston performance certainly didn't rival the noise and energy of KISS the previous night, but no one seemed to mind. For some, it no doubt provided the opportunity to make up for Tuesday night's wild behavior by sitting close and getting reacquainted with their wives during Diamond's string of love songs early in the show.

Diamond is a far more accomplished songwriter than many might know. ("I'm a Believer" and "Red, Red Wine", made famous by The Monkees and UB40, respectively, are both Diamond originals.)

Trademark lyrics like "You are the sun/I am the moon, Play Me" are what causes people to love (or, in some cases, hate) Diamond.

Why he couldn't come up with something better than "No one heard at all, not even the chair," for "I Am...I Said" is beyond me, but even Mario Lemieux missed a penalty shot once in a while.

Midway through the show Diamond picked up the tempo, encouraging the crowd to shout along to the chorus on "Sweet Caroline", which he performed five times. That still left him one shy of the record for redundancy, set by Bill Ray Cyrus' "Achy, Breaky Heart" at the Charleston Sternwheel Regatta several years ago.

With so much material, the show was bound to leave out a few favorites. "Desiree" and "September Morn" unfortunately didn't make the cut, but luckily "Heartlight" was left out as well. That can fairly be referred to as Diamond's "dark" period.

But the show overall left people feeling bright, no doubt not caring that they couldn't look at a clock during the performance.

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