Neil Diamond Concert Review
An Audience with Neil Diamond;
London Television Centre, Saturday 17th May, 2008-05-17
(The show will be aired at 8pm on Saturday 31st May, 2008 on Independent Television (ITV)
by Ian Graham
We have just returned from a fabulous evening with Neil Diamond recording “An Audience with” at the London Television Centre.
Along with a number of other long-time fans we were lucky enough to have production tickets for this unique event, and after queuing up in cold wet conditions we eventually got into the studio theatre.
For those unfamiliar with this type of television, Neil was appearing before a celebrity audience (list of identified celebrities at the end) performing songs and answering questions.
The show started after we were warmed up by a house comedian and told the usual rules about switching off mobile phones, not chewing gum etc. We also had to stand up and do some applause and the like for the sound.
Neil’s full band, complete with the Horn Dogs and Linda, Maxine & Julia were on stage left as the audience viewed.
At 7.50pm Neil appeared from the back of the stage through an open section to the strains of America. Neil wore a dark suit & shirt. Neil gave a great performance of America that fully engaged the entire audience and deserved the fantastic applause he received. Neil then performed a superb Pretty Amazing Grace that received rapturous applause before he went into an energetic Cherry Cherry at the end of which the studio director mentioned there was a technical problem with some backing lighting and while Neil had his make up touched up by the powder ladies they tried to fix it. This took longer than expected and so Neil began playing Cherry Cherry again, almost as an instrumental but with backing vocals fro the girls. Neil was asked to do Cherry Cherry with intro several more times and Neil showed his great dry sense of humour by doing so and at the same time teasing the director. Neil also suggested he help fix the lights and he joked and went over to the offending area and pretended to examine it!
While an attempt was made to fix the technical problems the director asked Neil just to rest his voice for a few minutes. Neil thanked him and begun playing Cherry Cherry yet again with the roaring approval and support of the audience! The producer then came towards the stage to offer guidance and Neil said “Steve, if you come on the stage, you sing”! The producer backed off! It was all great fun for Neil and the crowd! Neil was really teasing the producer and the director who took it all in great manner and everyone was having fun. Neil then danced to Cherry Cherry while the audience and the girls, Linda Maxine & Julia sang it. Neil kept adding fun lyrics, like “no chewing gum, turn off your mobile phones or something bad will happen to you” all to the tune of Cherry Cherry.
Eventually the technical gremlins were ironed out, Neil joking that he had no voice left but the director then wanted to get “back up to speed” and Neil asked “what does that mean? Neil then said “you have 10 seconds and counted down before going on to perform a rousing Cracklin’ Rosie with not a bottom on a seat in the entire house.
Neil was then asked to go to the opposite side of the stage to the band. Along with Hadley & Doug as he was about to perform Home before Dark. The director wanted to change tapes and asked Neil to go back so they could film him picking up the guitar. Neil said “I don’t think so” and told the audience how he wrote the title track after the rest of the album was finished in order to anchor the album, he said he thought that Home before Dark was his favourite track on the album and sang it beautifully to another huge ovation. He then dutifully agreed to the initial; request of the director, asking “are we in trouble yet?” before ensuring he did as he had been requested.
Neil was great at hamming up and did a few more bars of Cherry Cherry every time he was asked to wait or have his make up applied, it was really fun stuff.
After the comedy routine Neil pretended to chase Hadley & Doug back to the rest of the band but then gave a genuinely warm and sincere thank you to the band and this was very well received by the audience and the band members.
The songs were interspersed by various questions from celebrities, these are shown below. Neil then performed Don’t Go There in front of the band. Before he was asked to introduce and then perform Song Sung Blue. He did this with everyone on their feet and came down into the audience and said he was looking for someone to sing with. Actress Patsy Kensit danced with him and looked much more keen on snuggling up to Neil than trying to sing. After dancing with her Neil went further into the audience but he was out of our sight at this time. He then went back towards the stage and sang the rest of the song with “4 Poofs and a Piano stars” (This is not a politically incorrect statement, these 4 men are the house musicians on the BBC TV show Friday Night with Jonathan Ross, and for tonight the wore Tee shirts with Neil’s face on them.) Neil was then asked to rejoin is band for the next song and he said “Thank You”
Neil then sang I Am.. I Said.. and received the required standing ovation for a superb performance. He was then asked to sing Love on the Rocks which he performed impeccably as always. Before the song he made reference to Hadley’s “new guitar with pink stars on it”
Neil then closed out the show with a rousing audience sing-along of Sweet Caroline.
Neil was asked a variety of questions by celebrities, some of which may never make the final programme as this recording took exactly 2 hours and the show when aired will be 1 hour long including commercial breaks. But some questions were:
Claire Balding (TV Sports presenter); “Why do fans send you frogs?”
Neil told everyone about I Am.. I said.. and the frogs, and also that he had a section in his studio called “The Frogatarium” He also mentioned Jonathan Livingston Seagull and said he had a number of Seagull related gifts there also. He said as a result of these gifts he was trying to work on a song about a Rolls Royce!
Paul Nicholas (Actor/Singer – played the part of Keith Lennox in the Jazz Singer)
“Was it daunting to work with Sir Laurence Olivier”
Neil was generous in his praise of the late great actor and related the story of meeting Dustin Hoffman at an airport and seeking his advice on how to play the role. Hoffman advised Neil to take his fear of playing alongside such a legend and put it into his part. Neil said it worked well and he learned so much from Lord Olivier
Sir Tim Rice (World famous lyricist who has worked with Sir Andrew Lloyd Webber)
“You have written hit songs for over 40 years, is it easier now or more difficult.
Neil said “You tell me Tim, you have written some great stuff; Rice replied and said he was probably better technically but found it harder to find passion. Neil said he should work with a composer who has passion and Neil volunteered himself to work with Rice.
Johnny Vegas (Actor/Comedian)
“You have written songs dealing with love, joy & torment do you have a catalogue of mundane songs”
Neil self effacing as always replied “I have written many mundane songs, I once wrote a song called “Measles” (Applause from those of us who have heard him sing this song!
What is the most romantic thing you have ever done?
Neil replied that she would have to ask others about that, but said the most powerful thing he had done was write a song about love and wedding bells to woo a girl when he was 17. (A reference to Hear them Bells) and said that it worked because he married the girl and had 2 kids to prove it. He said that they eventually separated but the experience taught him that there was power in music
Craig Revell-Howard (Dancer/TV Dance contest judge)
Your music helped inspire me to dance. I know you danced with Princess Diana what was that like”?
Neil recounted how the late Princess had asked him to dance at a White House event in 1985 and how it had been a privilege to know her. He remarked upon her many great qualities and said she was someone he missed greatly. This was warmly applauded.
Michael Aspel (Former newsreader & all round TV presenter)
“So many people have covered your songs, who is your favourite performer?”
Neil replied that there were so many fantastic performers but his favourite cover was Frank Sinatra performing Sweet Caroline. Neil spoke warmly of Sinatra and said if he had to live on a Desert Island he would take the music of Sinatra who he felt was possibly the greatest singer of all time.
Alex James (??)
“After 40 years in the business you have a #1 USA album and the likelihood of a #1 UK album tomorrow how does it feel”
Neil replied that it felt terrible! That it would probably all go wrong now! He said he had come so close several times but that now it felt WONDERFUL!
Ben Miller (??)
Asked a general question about Neil studying medicine
Neil explained about studying medicine and keeping white rats in a cage! He said he was not disciplined enough to become a research doctor as he had wanted to. He was a dreamer who preferred to write lyrics. He said he also failed music exams twice!
Misha Paris (Singer)
Asked Neil what role music played in his childhood.
Neil talked about his parents’ love for dancing and friends coming to their home to dance and play records. He said it gave him a joyful love of music..
Alison Steadman (Actress)
“You were raised in Brooklyn; did you ever get into trouble?”
Neil said he never got caught! He went along with the other kids, but he never hurt anyone or never stole anything. He said he worked in his father’s shop when he was 9-10 years old and sometimes earned a commission of $8-10 that allowed him to buy as many hot fudge sundaes as he wanted and as many Hit Parader magazines as he wanted, but that his parents kept an eye on him.
Rob Briden (??)
Asked if Neil Diamond was his real name
Neil said yes! He told the story of the options of Eice Charry (spelled it out!”) and Noah Kaminsky and related his grandmother’s confusion and how he decided to stick with his birth name. Received huge applause!
We identified the following UK celebrities in the audience (with apologies to the many we either couldn’t or didn’t identify!)
Lynsey De Paul; Singer
Suzi Quatro; Singer
Dame Judy Dench; World Famous Actress
Germaine Greer; Author
John Sargent; Political TV journalist
Barbra Windsor; Actress
Phil Tufnell; Cricketer & big ND fan
Gail Porter; TV personality
Max Clifford; Media Publicist
Carol Thatcher; TV personality daughter of former UK Prime Minister
Sir Tim Rice; World Famous Lyricist
Eve Pollard; Journalist & TV personality
Kirsty Allsopp; TV presenter
Martin Lewis; TV Financial expert
Richard Arnold; TV Entertainment critic
Tony Blackburn; Radio Disc Jockey & big ND fan
Dermott Moynihan; TV news presenter
“Reg Hollis” (actor in TV Cop drama “The Bill” cannot recall his real name)
Michael Aspel; TV presenter & former newsreader
Judith Chalmers; TV presenter
Claire Balding; TV sports presenter, esp. horse racing
Alison Steadman; Actress
Anneke Rice; TV presenter
John Cresswell; Deputy Head of Independent Television
Brendan Cole; Dancer 7 TV celebrity
Donald McIntyre; TV investigative Journalist
“4 poofs & a Piano”; TV musicians (see earlier note NOT politically incorrect, this is their professional title)
Tim Vincent; TV presenter
Patsy Kensit; Actress
Dr. Gillian McKeith; TV Health Expert
Toby Anstes; Radio DJ
Sian Lloyd; TV Weather reporter
There were as I said many others! My apologies for this lengthy post, however so much of this wonderful evening will not make it to the edited show. But it was a great night for all. Neil was in excellent form, relaxed and in fantastic humour, especially in teasing the producer & director who took it with grace & style. The audience celebrities and ordinary folk together, loved Neil’s songs and it is looking great for the upcoming tour.
Although yet to be confirmed, it looks like, fingers crossed, Home before Dark could also be a #1 album in the UK by tomorrow at this time.
At the end of the show Neil said how this had been a new venture for him and he managed it with his usual impeccable professionalism and gave us all another evening to treasure.
Don’t miss the show when it is aired on 31st May!!We will be on tour but the video recorders will be set!!
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