Diamond in the rough pleases fans<

The Tampa Tribune

By JENNIFER BARRS

Perhaps one is not meant to understand the lyric: ``No one heard/Not even the chair.'' From the Tampa Tribune 12/22/98 -- 8:57 PM Diamond in the rough pleases fans By JENNIFER BARRS

Perhaps one is not meant to understand the lyric: ``No one heard/Not even the chair.''

Get that little detail out of the way - and the fact that Neil Diamond's grizzled, throaty vocals sometimes sound more preachy than poetic - and a Neil Diamond concert can be a rather enjoyable experience. Plenty of the 57-year- old singer's most familiar tunes are exactly that, familiar in an I-can't- believe-I remember-this way.

Even the most reticent listeners found themselves singing along to ``Sweet Caroline'' and ``Cherry, Cherry'' on Monday night at the Ice Palace.

That's when a healthy crowd of 18,386 sang and swayed with the man dressed in black, who limited the sequins to his shirt, just shoulders and back.

Backed by a band of nine, Diamond performed for 2 1/2 hours after opening his show with ``Beautiful Noise.'' From there, it was one soft hit after another: ``You Don't Bring Me Flowers,'' ``Hello, Again,'' ``Solitary Man,'' ``Shilo'' and ``Forever in Blue Jeans,'' among others. The corny, lush innocence of ``Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon'' was among the best of the evening, because it showcased Diamond's deliberately flippant bass, a style that is instantly recognizable and overwhelmingly acquired.

Yes, one thing is abundantly clear at a Diamond concert, just as it is at a gathering for Neil Young, say, or Dolly Parton. You either like the guy's voice or you don't. You either enjoy the righteous delivery or you don't. And as he has aged, there seems to be even more talking going, as Diamond's vocals dissolve into a series of impassioned pleas.

That's OK when singing about chairs and Cracklin' Rosies. But Diamond should probably stay away from the smoky, cocktail smoothness a Frank Sinatra tune requires. He sang a few of these off his latest release, a compilation of the singer's favorite movie songs, and there was clearly a style divide Diamond couldn't - and shouldn't - cross.

Nonetheless, the balance of his show was pure, pleasant pop. A sizzling guitar solo set the stage for a happy, head-bobbing ``Thank the Lord for the Night Time,'' and the entire place was on its feet for the rollicking, patriotic ``America.''

Ultimately, Diamond had the adoring concertgoers exactly where he wanted them. First, by telling them that his first professional gig was in Tampa 32 years ago. Second, by never, never resorting to a shortened version of a song or a medley of his hits.

For a guy who sings so eloquently about chairs, that's clearly an accomplishment.

Jennifer Barrs is a reporter in the Tampa office and can be reached at (813) 259-7832

Copyright 1998 The Tampa Tribune


The St. Petersburg Times

By NATALIE NICHOLS
TAMPA -- Pop crooner Neil Diamond spanned the decades from 1942's As Time Goes By" from the movie classic Casablanca to his own hits from the 1980s such as America and Love On the Rocks in a two-hour performance Monday at the Ice Palace.

Diamond entered through the crowd to take the stage and sang straight through the evening's solo performance of 29 songs. The revolving stage-in-the-round was a technical marvel of lights and lent intimacy to the large auditorium as well as showed off Diamond's nine-piece band. While the stage was a beautiful sight, the sound did not match it, and Diamond seemed slow to get up to speed during the first part of the evening.

The first 10 songs were plagued by sound problems that made Diamond difficult to hear over the band. But if the first 40 minutes lacked energy, the singer and the nearly sold-out crowd made up for it during the rest of the show.

Diamond's signature is down-and-out love songs in a variety of musical styles that combine a dash of lounge singer, a sprinkling of rock and roll, a helping of storyteller and a lot of pop. That recipe cooked up hits for Diamond in the late 1960s through mid-1980s such as Sweet Caroline, Song Sung Blue, Solitary Man, Cracklin' Rosie and You Don't Bring Me Flowers, all of which he sang in Monday's show.

St. Petersburg Times


FAN REVIEWS

My name is Ellen Borden and i just wanted to write you a quick note about last night's performance at the Ice Palace in Tampa, Florida. I'm quite sure you've already heard from tons of people. I did see you had the St. Petersburg review posted.

Boy, these newspaper reviews just don't capture the performance. But, I'm sure you already know that. This was my first time seeing Neil since I lived up in Massachusetts and he was at the Fleet Center, back in June of 1997.

I've been reading all the reviews and commentaries, but nothing prepared me for Neil. He was absolutely wonderful. I honestly didn't believe it when I read that his performace was better than ever and his voice was better than in the past. But I must admit that I must say that his voice was perfect. I didn't hear any cracking or hoarseness at all. Over the years, Neil has been a little rough in the first song, then he is usually fine. But last night, from the first song Beautiful Noise, until the last note of Brother Love, there was nothing but a strong, confident voice.

I was really happy about that. And the fact that Neil looked great!! I think I had about the best seats in all the years that I've been going to see Neil and the band. Last night I got to see the whole thing without missing anything. It was great!!!

Neil had the whole crowd on their feet from America, through Sweet Caroline and they loved it. The more he urged us up, the more we responded to him. After Sweet Caroline, he decided to play with us a little. He told us that it was almost perfect, but that's not the way it was supposed to go. First of all, he instructed us, after he sings "sweet Caroline", we were supposed to reply "wo, wo, wo", and than after "good times never seemed so good" we were to reply: "so good, so good, so good". He let us practice once, then tried it for real. It seemed like it was successful. And best of all it was tons of fun, we all enjoyed it, especially Neil.

There were a few surprises, "Oh, No No" for one, "Amazed and Confused", and "Shilo" and the beginning with little exerpts of Neil in concert was especially fresh. It was nice to have a few new changes in the show. I also really liked the way he had the band play "Dance of the Sabres" and he didn't have to personally introduce everybody. Most of us know them anyway. But that was really classy, they are just so talented. It's nice that he appreciates them so much.

Well, as you can see, I could go on forever. I can't think of one word to describe my experince last night. It was just too fantastic of a night for one single word.

Now, I must admit I am more than a little sad that it is over. There is so much anticipation, from the time I got the tickets in September, until the big night, now it's all over. But I do have wonderful memories.

Thanks Neil!!!

Ellen Borden


Mr. Diamond was once again a treat for southern floridians, performing both shows in his usual grace and style. For those of us who have been to many concerts, the Jonathan Livingston songs and the new Movie Album songs were the highlights of the show. Contrary to earlier reviews published, the movie album songs were met with much enthusiasm in both Orlando and Tampa -- particulary at the Ice Palace did there seem to be a collective sigh or "swoon" from the ladies at the end of Unchained Melody. I am not sure now which I like better: the album version of the songs or the live performance version, each is great in their own way!

Neil was more animated in Tampa than Orlando in our collective opinion. In Orlando Sweet Caroline was just a song, in Tampa, it was the song with the second round of chorus and the Neil instructed "whoas and so good, so good, so good." Neither show did we get "I''ve been this way before." I guess after brother love, he was just too tired.

As a last thought..... Even though when you sit in the front row you lose Neil to the other side of the stage (seemingly more often on the other side than yours, of course.) If you have never been that close to the singer performing, it's a MUST for all diamondheads!

There is nothing like being able to actually see the man's face and enjoy all those great expressions. There is something about being able to make eye contact with the rest of the band. I was able to say "hi" to Vince Charles before the show when he just walked out to speak to a security person and spent the night dancing and clapping to their sounds as well. All in all, a great time was had by all, and if not, well, they need a new hobby..... we'll keep this one as ours.

Debora Badyna, Bradenton Florida


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