Neil Diamond Concert Reviews - Rotterdam 5/24 & 5/25/2008
Reviews by Ian Graham, photos by Shelley Beckwith
Flawless Diamond rocks Rotterdam.
The Ahoy Arena, Rotterdam. Holland;
On stage; 8.15pm
Off stage; 8.29pm
Concert time; 2hrs 09mnts.
by Ian Graham
Neil wore; Dark jacket with white stitching on cuffs & lapels, Dark shirt with Maroon patterns & understated sparkles.
Dark trousers with white stitching down sides.
After an absence of 9 years the legendary Neil Diamond backed by the greatest band of musicians on the planet returned in triumph to Holland tonight and stunned the wildly enthusiastic crowd with a sensational show of old & new hits that rocked this famous Arena to the rafters.
This was a return journey for me also, having last seen Neil perform here way back in 1984, and on this night of a zillion highlights Neil made it so special for each and every fan inside the arena.
Few would have won a bet on the opening song; as the house lights went down the band took their places and then we became aware that, as so many times before, Neil appeared from the rear centre of this extraordinary stage strumming his guitar and singing One more bite of the Apple; As Neil approached the front with the crowd already on their feet cheering and clapping he changed gear into Holly Holy.
The incredible stage then moved the various sections of the band around as Neil tore into Street Life and then while we were still trying to take in all these wonderful happenings he talked proudly of where he came from and followed up with Beautiful Noise and then 2 more classics from that fabulous album, the breathtaking Lady Oh and the magnificent If you know what I mean. Neil then asked ďare you ready to rockĒ and took us charging into Cherry Cherry. The band were fantastic as Neil let them do part of the song as an instrumental and he gave special praise to Tom, Alan, Linda, Maxine & Julia & the Horn dogs as they all strutted their stuff. Then a wonderfully fresh Thank the Lord for the Nighttime after which Neil threw off his jacket and reacquainted us all with the Jazz Singer era by delivering Hello Again and Love on the Rocks; every song was cheered massively by this great audience but it was clear that for many these were 2 special favourites. Neil then moved to the right side of the stage as seen from the floor and talked a little of his new album before magnificently presenting the superb title track Home before Dark, the cover of which had been highlighted on the 2 giant screens either side of the stage. Then Neil rocked into Donít go there that had everyone stomping again and while we tried to catch breath he quickly went on to the hugely popular Pretty Amazing Grace.
All the band members were really having fun, and Doug & Hadley were simply awesome on their guitar work, just normal for such a class act, while Linda Maxine & Julia could easily take charge of a class for aerobics and still have energy to burn!
Neil then talked about the wonderful Hot August Night album before launching into Crunchy Granola Suite in true Greek Theatre style and then stunned us all with a truly sensational Done too soon. Someone will no doubt correct me if I am wrong, but I have not heard Neil perform this masterful song in concert since the early 70s, a truly special moment on a night of many special moments!
Not for the first time over many decades Neil was displaying unbelievable energy levels and did not let up as he had every single person in the arena singing along with Forever in Blue Jeans, and it was nice to see a number of the Arena very audience-friendly security staff singing along as well!
Another old friend then returned as Neil sat on his stool and sand the beautiful Brooklyn Roads, complete with some wonderful Diamond family archive video material on the 2 giant screens. The next surprise followed immediately as Neil continued with I Am.. I Said.. in a new position in the set and he had to stop before his closing lines as the audience, singing along as always to this most famous of anthems burst into thunderous applause before Neil was able to complete the song to even more of the same appreciation and yet another richly deserved standing ovation.
Then it was back to the 1960s again with Solitary Man, greeted with huge affection by this knowledgeable crowd and followed by the perennial favourite Iím a Believer that again left every seat in the arena untouched by human bottoms!
The arena then went quite as a small table, bedecked with red & white chequered cloth appeared at the Left of the stage. It held a half drunk bottle of Red Wine (well maybe it was Cranberry juice!) and a glass as well as a single red rose. Neil then sang sitting down You donít bring me Flowers. He was greeted from the far right of the stage by Linda Press who delivered her part of this superb duet in the high quality style that has become her personal calling card over the years. As they met on the small moving island that is the front piece of this superbly designed stage they danced together for a while as the band played the instrumental version of this classic before Neil & Linda finished off the song in style. Generous as ever Neil thanked Linda and she deserved the huge ovation given her by the audience. Neil then asked Linda to stay and sing with him and said that Ēmaybe this crowd will sing with us tooĒ and then, for the first time in at least a couple of tours we had the fun sing-along of Song Sung Blue. Neil inviting Maxine & Julia to join himself & Linda at the front of the stage to lead the massed chorus in welcoming the return of this classic US chart topper.
It is impossible to do justice to this impressive stage in words alone, but it was almost like an additional band member, all singing & dancing and Neil then had fun with the moveable front part. Basically it could move the entire length of the front of the stage and looked like a small baseball Diamond or even a tiny island, though that is probably far too simplistic a description. Neil pretended to call it back and forth, the way you would when training a new puppy, and surprise surprise, it obeyed his every command!
Then Neil stood on his personal little moving island and gave us an exquisite version of Man of God followed by a show-stopping Hell Yeah that had to be experienced in the flesh to fully understand the hairs standing up on the back of several thousand necks!
After soaking up a deserved standing ovation Neil left the stage but the cheers were so loud and long that he simply had to return and did so, having changed into a dark grey shirt with a different design and some more subtle sparkles
And what a return! The universally popular Sweet Caroline brought yet another full scale party sing-along and hot on its heels came the greatest of all #1 hits Crackliní Rosie. America followed featuring the same superb video footage we had seen in US shows in 2005, that wonderful black & white vintage developing into modern day with the great soaring Eagle, Old Glory and Lady Liberty coming together at the climax!
But how can Neil finish such a magnificent show with anything other than the peerless Brother Loveís Travelling Salvation Show. And he stood proudly atop his personal moving island to take the acclaim! I donít want to upset folks, and over the decades there have been other show closers, but this giant is a show within a show; OK so it is my #1 song too, but all those thousands of people canít be wrong either! After saving all our souls Neil took the deafening final ovations and then, generous to the end he left the magnificent band to take their own bows before they too left the stage for the last time, for tonight at least!
After over two hours of the highest quality we were all coaxed out of the arena by the friendly security staff. Of course there was still time to spend even more money at the merchandise stalls, with numerous great tee shirts, a tea towel even, a great Home Before Dark mug and a tour book that takes its place in the history of high quality world tour books Neil has enriched us with over the decades.
A last word about that magnificent stage. I am a technophobe so donít understand the intricacies of such a magnificent design but when it comes to your town or city it will simply blow your socks off!
Now we are already desperate for tomorrow to come and more of the same as Neil delights everyone lucky enough to have a ticket for this spectacular show in this vibrant and friendly town. And one thing is for sure, great though the title of this magnificent new album is, I guarantee that none of us will be ďHome Before DarkĒ!
Diamond Delivers Double Delight for Dutch Fans
25 May 2008
The Ahoy Arena, Rotterdam. Holland;
On stage; 8.16pm
Off stage; 10.20pm
Concert time; 2hrs 04mnts.
Neil wore; Dark jacket with Black satin pattern on cuffs, Black with Black beads pattern on collar, cuffs & shoulders, Dark trousers with silver stitching down sides.
How do you top perfection? Impossible, but the unsurpassed talents of Neil Diamond ensured that this wonderful Arena witnessed a second consecutive night of magic as he turned in another performance at the Ahoy for which the term superlative is simply not adequate.
The play list was slightly changed from last night with Forever in Blue Jeans moved from immediately after Done too soon to immediately after Song Sung Blue. Neil also left out America tonight. Each and every song he performed was a highlight as the fervent fans saluted every bar, every single lyric and kept up a deafening noise level that must surely have convinced the Solitary Man that he still has a zillion devoted fans the world over, and none more so than here in Holland.
We all have our own special favourites and of course want Neil to sing every one of them; even for someone with Neilís enormous reserves of energy that is not possible, it would need to be a 5 or 6 hour show! But the old familiar favourites were again mixed with songs not heard for a long time in a joyful reunion of superb music and well crafted lyrics of the highest order.
Special mention for superlative songs like Lady Oh, If you know what I mean,( in my view the best song on the Beautiful Noise album alongside the as yet unheard in concert Dry your Eyes) the applause for which could possibly have been heard back in Brooklyn and reminding Neil what a huge favourite this superb song has been for 30 plus years! Brooklyn Roads & the superb Done too soon.
Taking their place alongside the ďmust doĒ giants Cherry Cherry,(again part instrumental and featuring the band) I Am.. I Said.. Sweet Caroline, Crackliní Rosie & Brother Loveís Travelling Salvation Show and next to the fun sing-alongís of Forever in Blue Jeans, Song Sung Blue & Iím a Believer this was a potent arsenal to delight fans right across the musical spectrum.
After the wonderful 3-part production that You donít bring me Flowers has become (complete with table, wine & rose again) Neil joked with Linda that he never bought her flowers and said, ďhey this is Holland, they have lots of flowers, after the show we will get you someĒ. Linda deserves flowers as well as the mighty ovation she received from another pumped up audience.
The performance of songs from the transatlantic #1 album Home Before Dark proved the extra icing on a very substantial and enjoyable cake with the opener One more bite of the Apple, the stark beauty of Home Before Dark, the up-tempo Donít go there and the excellent Pretty Amazing Grace received with equal enthusiasm to the more established numbers. These last 3 songs from the new album performed from right to Left on the stage courtesy of Neilís moving island!
Once again Neil was as relaxed as I have seen him in many years and with this incredible band of musicians supporting his every move with their own unique talents he had every reason to be as hugely satisfied with this highly charged and ultra professional performance as were the legions of fans crammed into the Ahoy.
For those fans like me who still feel a little nostalgic for Neilís more colourful shirts, then check out Kingís shirts of last night and tonight, simply awesome!
I Am.. I Said.. fits well in its earlier slot on the play list between those other autobiographical favourites Brooklyn Roads (When the tour comes your way make sure you watch out for the fantastic video footage on the large screens during this classic!) & Solitary Man, all of these done without need of stool as Neil commanded the stage as only he can and allowed every section of the arena to get as good a view of his talents as was possible, and paying special attention to the riser seats either side of the stage; and how those dedicated fans responded, dancing and singing along to their Hearts content!
The impressive Man of God & the emerging giant that is Hell Yeah reminded us all of the depth of quality of Neilís previous 12 Songs album.
If ever there was a high energy finish then surely this was it, as again the rarely occupied arena seats were empty as everyone bounced along in collective triumphant joy when Neil returned, (resplendent in a change shirt that looked purple, though maybe the lights played tricks on our eyes) to lead us all through Sweet Caroline, Crackliní Rosie, and the soul-saving awesome Brother Loveís Travelling Salvation Show!
Neil left the stage after receiving huge applause; This again allowed the audience to show generous appreciation of the multi talented band; everyone a star, from King with those great shirts, to Linda, Julia & Maxine, the Horn Dogs, who were simply superb, the industrious Tom & Alan, to Ron, surely one of THE great drummers of this or any other generation, and the quiet but effective Reine, not forgetting the duelling twosome of Hadley & Doug
The busy merchandise stalls seem to have another delight to offer every time you turn around and who knows what more there will be before this remarkable journey ends? At last count there were 10 different tee shirts, the tea towel, mug, CDs of course and the must have tour book.
An unashamed hint to the creative merchandise designers; how about a model of the famous Travelling Salvation Show wagon somewhere down the road, that would be fantastic and I feel certain it would have massive appeal!
My apologies to those folk who pointed out my concert times were a little off key last night. The 1st show started at 8.15pm and ended at 10.24 (not 8.29!) and I cannot even blame jet lag for my error!
As we all drifted out into the cool night air it is farewell to Rotterdam, as welcoming a city now as it was for us 24 years ago; we have an early morning departure for Munich tomorrow and the next stop on this exciting adventure that only the remarkable Neil Diamond can inspire!
#1;One more bite of the Apple/Holly Holy; #2; Street Life; #3; Beautiful Noise; #4; Lady Oh; #5; If you know what I mean; #6; Cherry Cherry (part band intro/instrumental); #7; Thank the Lord for the Nighttime; #8 Hello Again; #9; Love on the Rocks; #10; Home Before Dark; #11; Donít go there; #12 Pretty Amazing Grace; #13; Crunchy Granola Suite; #14 Done too soon; #15; Brooklyn Roads; #16; I Am.. I Said..; #17; Solitary Man; #18; Iím a Believer; #19; You donít bring me Flowers; #20 Song Sung Blue; #21; Forever in Blue Jeans; #22; Man of God; #23; Hell Yeah; WALK-OFF; #24 Sweet Caroline; #25; Crackliní Rosie #26 BROTHER LOVEíS TRAVELLING SALVATION SHOW; Final walk-off Band Walk-off
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