Neil Diamond

Concert Reviews - Bakersfield, CA July 29, 1999

Drummer's heart attack didn't

keep Diamond from sparkling

The Californian
Filed: July 29, 1999
Californian staff writer

The show must go on. A heart attack did not deter Neil Diamond's band from entertaining an enthusiastic, sold-out crowd at Bakersfield's Centennial Garden on Thursday night.

Longtime Diamond drummer Ron Tutt, 61, suffered a heart attack Wednesday night and was admitted to Bakersfield Memorial Hospital, where he underwent double bypass surgery, a hospital spokeswoman said. Tutt was in critical condition Thursday, a standard post-operative condition, the spokeswoman said.

"Ron is in our hearts and prayers," Diamond's manager, Jim Morey, said Thursday afternoon. "We know he has excellent care, and his prognosis is good."

Greg Lopez of Phoenix, Ariz., took Tutt's place during Thursday's Bakersfield concert, which kicked off the summer leg of Diamond's West Coast tour.

Diamond, with his swinging hips and energetic baritone, more than satisfied his audience, which consisted primarily of women in their 30s, 40s, 50s, even 60s.

The 58-year-old singer, accompanied by a nine-piece band, performed on a 360-degree stage that slowly rotated, allowing most audience members a frontal look at the 1970s-80s icon.

During his two-hour performance, Diamond sang most of his hits, including "America," "Cherry, Cherry," "Hello Again" and "Solitary Man."  Purple and blue lights bathed him as he sang his emotive tunes.

"I'm happy to be here in Bakersfield," Diamond said between songs. "It was so kind of the city to erect this building just for us."

Diamond, dressed in black pants and a black shirt with glitter on his shoulders, seemed to bask in the cheers and applause of his audience. "You're wonderful — you're really spoiling us," he said. "We're not very good. But I love this reaction."

Most audience members disagreed with Diamond's critical self-assessment. "It's a great concert — it's great fun," said Jo Jung, 46, who whooped and screamed like a teen-ager during Diamond's performance. "I've been a fan for years. He brings me back to the memories of the old days. That's why I liked listening to his music."

Gail Fussy attended the concert with her two sons, her mother and her sister-in-law. "I think he's someone that hits all ages," Fussy, 53, said. "I've always enjoyed him." "His voice has a sexy feel to it," Fussy's sister-in-law, Jaymie Fussy, 39, added. Before the concert, a mostly middle-aged crowd of fans stood in the Centennial Plaza, enjoying the cooling evening weather and catching up with one another. Dozens kicked back a couple in the plaza's "beer garden." While tickets for the concert sold out in about 3 hours on the day of sale, numerous tickets miraculously sprung up in people's hands and were being waved about minutes before the show. Most ticket-sellers were trying to get rid of extra tickets for face value or less.

Only a couple of scalpers dotted the plaza. "I'm trying to get these tickets off my hands," said Jonathan Still, 28, of Raleigh, N.C. "Several of us came in from the East Coast. A buddy of mine bought extra tickets, and more people were supposed to come." Still, he wound up entering the Garden without selling the tickets. "I'm gonna eat 'em," he said.

Grant Schofield, 66, tried to sell his pair for $25-$30 each. He bought the two tickets for $99, which included a service charge. "My wife loves Neil Diamond, but she's out of town," Schofield said. "I didn't want to go by myself. When Neil comes back, we'll see him next time."

Allison Pederson, 38, a nurse at Memorial Hospital, said she attended the concert because she had extra time on her hands as a result of the strike. "I'm not crossing the line," Pederson said. "The nurses have been kicked out for five days. I probably would have come nyway, but then I would have been late. "Now I'm on time."

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