By Donna Isbell Walker
Copyright 1998 The Greenville News
Neil Diamond appeared to be having as much fun as the audience Sunday night at the Bi-Lo Center.
So much fun, in fact, hat he led the crowd in the bouncy Sweet Caroline not once, but twice. The first rendition got the fans on their feet, clapping, swaying and singing along.
That was almost perfect, Diamond told the crowd, then instructed them how to sing along for the second version. He wanted wo wo wo after the title line, then so good, so good, so good, after the next line of Good times never seemed so good.
The audience happily obliged, and Diamond obliged in turn by playing a veritable hit parade of his most popular tunes.
Dressed in a black sequined shirt and black pants, Diamond opened the show with Beautiful Noise. Two hours and 10 minutes later, he finished with a rousing, gospel-inflected turn on Brother Loves Travelling Salvation Show.
The 57-year-old singers voice hasnt diminished with time. Hes still got the range of a much younger man.
He crooned lovingly on You Dont Bring Me Flowers in a duet with his backup singer, growled playfully on the popular Cracklin Rosie and burnished a smooth vocal patina on tunes like Unchained Melody from his current release The Movie Album: As Time Goes By.
Performing in the round on a rotating stage, Diamond was assisted by a tight nine-piece band that included three drummers. The truly magnificent band has backed Diamond for 20 years, the singer told the audience, and he gave them a chance to shine while he sat on a stool on stage and listened tapping his feet.
Diamond, whos been performing for 30 years or so, is adept at working the audience and changing moods. He segued easily from the up-tempo Shilo to the quieter Play Me, and later from the pulse-pounding America to the more moody Love on the Rocks.
The hit parade also included Holly Holy, Cherry Cherry, and Solitary Man.
Those patented Diamond mannerisms were on display as well. He sings it like he means it, and tat includes fist-pumping, hand-clappin, and knee shaking. His enthusiasm is infectious, and even a marginal song like Forever in Blue Jeans gets a B+ because of his effort to please his audience.
The only real misstep cam about midway through the show, a medley from the 1970s film Jonathan Livingston Seagull that slowed the momentum for a few minutes.
But Diamond regained it soon enough, and the hard-working singer gave this music critic and excuse to quote the title of one of his songs -- which he didnt perform Sunday -- Im a Believer.
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