Diamond sparkles, when singing his string of hits

The Palm Beach Post

By Seth Mnookin
Palm Beach Post Staff Writer

SUNRISE -- It's a beautiful noise, the sound of thousands of senior citizens roaring their full-throated approval as Neil Diamond, a.k.a. the Jewish Elvis, jogs around stage rousing the faithful.

On Friday night, as cruise missiles were raining down on Iraq and the House of Representatives prepared to impeach the president for the second time in the country's history, that noise, an admitted escape from world events, was sustained for hours on end as Diamond played a sold-out show at the National Car Rental Center.

Resplendent in tight black slacks and a black-sequined shirt, Diamond got the crowd, which looked as if it had been lifted wholesale from a Century Village rec room, whipped into an early frenzy with his classics Beautiful Noise and Hello Again. Playing with his longtime, nine-piece band, Diamond can perform these songs in his sleep; some of them have been in his show for almost 30 years. But Diamond, the consummate showman, imbued each song with a infectious fervor.

Diamond's songs are built around a series of crescendos, and he structures his concerts in much the same way: a couple of slower tunes (Solitary Man and Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon) followed by punchier numbers (Cherry Cherry, Kentucky Woman). The formula works; while his audience might have difficulty standing for too many songs in a row, they were happy to leap to their feet for songs like the unabashedly sentimental America, during which four American flags unfurled from the rafters.

For the most part, Diamond limited his show to live renditions of his greatest hits, which was a smart move. Near the end, he sang several selections from his recently released The Movie Album, and this was without question the weakest part of the show. Diamond's writing style suits his voice perfectly: He pronounces rather than sings, and he makes sure his songs, both lyrically and musically, are structured to impart the weight of his voice. In contrast, on songs like As Time Goes By, Diamond sounded blustery and overwrought; I've Got You Under My Skin and Can't Help Falling in Love were so maudlin as to be laughable.

These missteps were quickly forgotten as Diamond, toward the end, launched into energetic renditions of two of his most-beloved, and best, songs: Cracklin' Rosie and Sweet Caroline. Both were soaring, free-spirited and endlessly fun, and the crowd virtually demanded Diamond sing another couple of verses of Sweet Caroline after he had finished.

"I love you all," said Diamond, without a touch of irony, near the end of the show. The crowd, tiring after more than two straight hours of singing, roared back their appreciation. As a silver haired woman sitting next to me said to her husband, "Why can't every night be like this?"

"What did you say?" he asked. "I turned off my hearing aid."

Originally published in The Palm Beach Post on Sunday, Dec. 20, 1998.

Neil Diamond's performance sparkles

The Miami Herald

By Leila Cobo-Hanlon
Herald Pop Music Critic

Good songs are timeless.

That's the message Neil Diamond conveyed Friday night at the Broward National Car Rental Center during a two-hour, nearly sold-out show featuring hit after hit of more than 30 years of music making.

It's undeniable that Diamond is getting old. The hip popster of other years still dresses all in black, but his stage demeanor is stilted and sedate, with moves taking up no more than a square foot of the arena's circular stage.

But Diamond's voice is as powerful as ever, undiminished by age and as expressive and unique as always. If those who grew up with him closed their eyes, they could hear the Neil Diamond they danced their first dance to and shared their first kiss with.

This was clearly the sense among an audience sporting a lot of gray hair. They hummed along to Love on the Rocks, sang along to Sweet Caroline and got up and boogied to Forever in Blue Jeans. And the duet You Don't Bring Me Flowers -- sung with his back-up singer -- was breathtaking.

In a show that boasted no theatrics or props, things were stripped down to the basics: A solid band (they've been playing with Diamond for 20 years) and a fantastic singer that has stood the test of time.

Things only got boring when Diamond sang tunes from his most recent release, The Movie Album. Standards like As Time Goes By were agonizingly slow, and Diamond's tribute to Frank Sinatra, singing I Got You Under My Skin, did little except highlight the fact that even Diamond is no Sinatra.

But Diamond is still Diamond.

Copyright 1998 The Miami Herald

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