Birmingham, ENG Concert Reviews 1999

 

 

DIAMOND LOSING A BIT OF SPARKLE

 

BY DAVID BELL - BIRMINGHAM EVENING POST

NEIL DIAMOND TURNED 58 ON CHRISTMAS EVE SO IT IS NO SURPRISE THAT SOME OF THE

SPARKLE IS STARTING TO DISAPPEAR FROM HIS VOICE,BUT AN ECSTATIC PACKED HOUSE

AT THE NECK'S ARENA LAST NIGHT PROVED THAT HE STILL IS ONE OF THE WORLDS

GREATEST LIVE PERFORMERS.

IN BIRMINGHAM FOR THREE SELL OUT NIGHTS,DIAMOND SOON HAD THE PREDOMINANTLY

MIDDLE AGED CROWD RELIVING THEIR YOUTH WITH AN HOUR OF HIS PAST HITS THAT HAD

FEET TAPPING AND GRINS SPREADING THROUGHOUT THE ARENA.

BUT HE DEVOTED PART OF HIS NON-STOP TWO HOUR SHOW TO TRACKS FROM HIS NEW MOVIE

ALBUM "TIME GOES BY",THE NAME TAKEN FROM THE BOGART MOVIE CLASSIC"

CASABLANCA".

A BIT OF ELVIS FOLLOWED THEN A TRIBUTE TO FRANK SINATRA AND FINALLY "UNCHAINED

MELODY",THE THEME FROM "GHOST".

BUT WHILE DIAMOND TENDS TO SPEAK RATHER THAN SING A LOT OF HIS BALLADS VERSES

THESE DAYS,HE STILL BELTS OUT HIS UP-TEMPO NUMBERS WITH THE VERVE OF A MAN

HALF HIS AGE.

AN AUDIENCE PATICIPATION VERSION OF "SWEET CAROLINE" EVEN HAD PENSIONERS

ROCKING IN THE AISLES.

 


DIAMOND FOREVER A STAR TO HIS FANS

 

BY DAVID BELL - BIRMINGHAM EVENING MAIL

 

NEIL DIAMOND'S FORTUNE IS ESTIMATED AT 125 MILLIONWHICH MAKES YOU WONDER WHY

HE'S STILL SINGING HIS WAY AROUND THE WORLD.ON THE EVIDENCE OF THE FIRST OF

HIS THREE SELL OUT SHOWS AT THE NEC ARENA,IT WOULD APPEAR THAT HE ENJOYS IT

EVERY BIT AS MUCH AS HIS LEGION OF FANS.

ONE OF POP'S TRUE SUPERSTARS, HE DELIGHTED HIS AUDIENCE WITH A NON-STOP

135-MINUTE PERFORMANCE.

THE FIRST HOUR WAS PURE NOSTALGIA,TURNING THE CLOCK BACK FOR HIS FANS IN THEIR

FIFTIES WITH SONGS LIKE "BEAUTIFUL NOISE", "HELLO AGAIN",AND "PLAY ME".

THEN IT WAS A SAMPLE FROM HIS LATEST 20-TRACK CD OF CLASSIC MOVIE TUNES

."UNCHAINED MELODY" FROM "GHOST" AND "AS TIME GOES BY" FROM THE BOGART CLASSIC

"CASABLANCA".

A LITTLE ELVIS, A FRANK SINATRA TRIBUTE AND THEN ON TO WHAT DIAMOND DOES BEST

- UP TEMPO NUMBERS LIKE "CRACKLIN ROSIE" AND "SWEET CAROLINE".

AT 58,DIAMOND'S VOICE MAY HAVE LOST SOME OF IT'S CUTTING EDGE.

HE TENDS TO TALK THROUGH,INSTEAD OF SING ,A LOT MORE BALLAD VERSES.

BUT THE SLOW SONGS WERE GIVEN AN ADDED INTIMACY AS DIAMOND PERFORMED IN THE

ROUND AT HIS OWN INSISTENCE.HIS STANDING OVATION AT THE END PROVED THAT HE'S

STILL ONE OF THE WORLD'S GREAT LIVE PERFORMERS.

 

GREAT SHOWMAN DIAMOND SPARKLES IN MEMORABLE NIGHT OF  NOSTALGIA.

 

BY SUSAN BELL - SUNDAY MERCURY.

 

IT WAS 2 1/4 HOURS OF PURE NOSTALGIA AS SUPERSTAR NEIL DIAMOND RETURNED TO THE

NEC FOR THREE SELL - OUT SHOWS,ENDING LAST NIGHT.

EVEN AT THE AGE OF 58 HE REMAINS A GREAT SHOWMAN AND ONE OF THE MUSIC

INDUSTRY'S VERY BEST LIVE PERFORMERS.

DIAMOND PERFORMED IN THE ROUND AT HIS OWN INSISTENCE,AN ARRANGEMENT HE FEELS

GIVES HIM MORE RAPPORT WITH HIS AUDIENCE .

AND HOW HIS FANS LAPPED IT UP FROM THE OPENING NUMBER - "BEAUTIFUL NOISE"- AND

THE "HELLO AGAIN " FOLLOW UP.

AN HOUR OF HIS HIT TUNES THAT HAVE SOLD IN MILLIONS FOR THE PAST 30 YEARS WAS

FOLLOWED BY EXCERPTS FROM HIS NEW 20-TRACK CD OF CLASSIC MOVIE TUNES.

IT WAS ODD TO HEAR DIAMOND'S GRAVELLY VOCAL CHORDS WRAPPING THEMSELVES AROUND

A REWORKING OF "I'VE GOT YOU UNDER MY SKIN",A FILM HIT PERFORMED BY SINATRA IN

HIS POMP.

EVEN ODDER WAS HIS ELVIS TRIBUTE "CAN'T HELP FALLING IN LOVE WITH YOU".

OTHER NEW (TO HIM) MATERIAL INCLUDED "UNCHAINED MELODY"- THE THEME FROM

"GHOST"- AND "AS TIME GOES BY" FROM THE BOGART AND BERGMAN CLASSIC

"CASABLANCA".

BUT DIAMOND REALLY SPARKLES WITH HIS UP-TEMPO MATERIAL.

"SONG SUNG BLUE","CRACKLIN' ROSIE" AND AN AUDIENCE -PARTICIPATION VERSION OF

THE THUMPING "SWEET CAROLINE"FOLLOWED ONE ANOTHER TO LEAVE HIS ECSTATIC 50

SOMETHING FANS DREAMING OF THEIR YOUNGER DAYS.

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Fan Review by Paula Webb

Neil came on stage to the sound of the 'background medley' of hits from "In my

Lifetime", and started with Beautiful Noise (NOT blown this time!). Needless

to say the audience was on its feet before he even appeared. He was certainly

in fine voice, wearing black trousers and blue sparkly shirt - it reminded me

of his mid-seventies Greek theatre shows. He carried on with Can Anybody Hear

Me, Hello and If You Know What I Mean, and somewhere in this section had his

two guitar players play off electric guitar rills against each other. There

was a real sense of fun. He also played a brief game with the audience along

the lines of all being there to share the music (and each other!). As if we

were there for any other reason but to see Neil himself!

Then he introduced the Neil Diamond guitar and played some old sixties

favourites - Thank the Lord for the Nightime, Cherry Cherry, Girl You'll be a

Woman Soon, Solitary Man.

Unfortunately a British audience has to be given permission to get up and

dance (and some of us have to be given the OK from Neil before the people

behind us will let us stand!), so he duly granted us said permission, moving

on to Forever in Blue Jeans, and that had nearly 10,000 of us rocking!

>From there on, Neil switched from slow, beautifully melodious songs to more

upbeat numbers throughout the evening. He judged the tempo really well

throughout. The performances of the Movie Album songs (As Time Goes By, Frank

Sinatra Suite, Unchained Melody and I Can't Help Falling in Love with You)

were wonderful - he and the band made a perfect combination. For the band

intro, Neil sat while they played Sabre Dance, a really rousing rendition that

had Neil and the audience swaying and foot-tapping together. This was without

doubt the best band intro I have ever experienced, both at Neil Diamond

concerts and all the others I've been to - there was no sense of "getting

through this bit because it has to be done!"

"Play Me" aroused the usual screams and a Thank You from Neil, whilst America

(with the by now expected American and British flags) had us all on our feet

again. You Don't Bring Me Flowers was beautiful (oh, to be Linda Press!),

whilst the arrangement of Brooklyn Roads from the early 90's worked

brilliantlly.

Coming to the end of the concert (it's time to do some Neil Diamond Songs), we

were singing Song Sung Blue, dancing to Cracklin' Rosie (we would have had all

night too, given the choice!), and adding some backing to Sweet Caroline

(repeated 3 or 4 times I think), while I Am, I Said was finished with the

traditional 'end-of show' melody. Neil then said he thought there were a few

more songs left in him, and finished with Holly Holy (my personal must-have)

and Brother Loves Travelling Salvation Show, half sung and half chanted. He

wandered around the stage to say goodbye and thank you to all the audience,

and left, while we all came down to more "In My Lifetime" background and the

lights came up (10:27 p.m.)

He also sang Shilo, Crunchy Granola Suite, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Love

on the Rocks and Longfellow Serenade - but I can't remember exactly where

these slotted in. This concert saw Neil and the Band in the finest form I

have ever seen, his voice perfect, and judgement of a very British audience

spot-on. Here's to the next tour!

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