Neil Diamond could have sung his way through the phone book and still
delighted the fans who turned out to see him last night at the Arena.
But by sticking to the songs which made him famous and some covers of movie soundtracks, he proved that, although he is pushing 60, his voice is as good as it ever was. He kicked off with What A Beautiful Noise and that was enough to bring many members of the audience to their feet.
The concert was played out in the round and as Diamond strolled round the circular rotating stage, the whole auditorium was bathed in flashing, coloured lights in a far more sophisticated display than he used during his last appearance in the Arena.
The tour is a promoting his new album The Movie Album, but before he performed some of the new songs he gave the audience what he knew they were there to hear - the old, two o'clock in the morning classics like Hello Again and Love On The Rocks.
From there he moved on to the more upbeat Cracklin' Rosie and the dramatic We're Coming to America, earning a round of applause as the British and American flags dropped from the ceiling.
The songs from the new album included the theme tune to the film Ghost and a couple of Sinatra classics but perhaps the highlight of the show was his rendition of You Don't Bring Me Flowers. The audience was almost still as he sang the duet with his backing singer Linda. And as the song reached its close there probably wasn't a woman in the Arena who wouldn't have swapped places with her.
Newcastle Telewest Arena
The Jazz Singer showed he is really an old fashioned, all-American entertainer at the
Arena last night.
From the moment Neil Diamond walked to the cnetre of the auditorium looking every inch the rhinestone cowboy, dressed all in black with only his shirt studded predictably with small diamonds, it was obvious this was an evening dominated by the trappings of showbiz.
He looked sprightly as he drawled "C'mon y'all" before launching into What a Beautiful Noise and as soon as he sang the first line in his familiar rasp it was obvious that despite his 58 years Diamond's voice has barely been tainted by the years.
From there on the show was the epitome of slick, choreographed all-American entertainment as the band wore permanent grins and Diamond ended the song under a spotlight, reaching to the heavens in a pose.
But despite always having a tendency for schmaltz Diamond has always had a craving to be taken seriously as a singer/songwriter and was not prepared to simply indulge in pure nostalgia.
There was more quiet among the crowd as he played songs from his more recent albums and some of the old favourites such as Girl you'll Be A Woman Soon which was revitalised by Urge Overkill on Quentin Tarantino's Pulp Fiction, was given a flamenco treatment.
While it is easy to understand why he would try and revive his own interest in tracks he has played thousands of times by revising them, some were less successful than others and it was those which sounded most unchanged, such as Hello Again from the Jazz Singer, that drew the biggest cheers.
Diamond has always played on and celebrated his roots in song and talked several times of how lucky he felt to be an entertainer.
Predictably the most obvious moment was during a rabble-rousing version of America, which saw two Union Jacks and a pair of Stars and Stripes fall from the lighting rig.
At times the show was too seamless and rehearsed, but when he launched into his really old classics this became irrevelant.
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