Any child of the 70s will identify with memories of rumpus rooms, shag carpeting, Elvis-in-Hawaii garbage cans, and Neil Diamond records on the bubble-domed turntable.
Only the musical canon of Neil Diamond could conjure up the vivid feelings of a time when you were a kid and things were pretty simple: You laughed, you danced, you wouldn't think to question the relevance of an aging pop icon who sings, "You are the sun, I am the moon, you are the words, I am the tune, play me." You wouldn't question it then, and you wouldn't question it Sunday night at GM Place, when Diamond performed to the venue's record attendance of the year (possibly of all time, they're checking).
Almost 21,000 people crammed the seats and collectively steamed up the room for Diamond's two-plus hour set, filled with the hit parade of songs including Hello Again, Cherry, Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon, Love On the Rocks, A Solitary Man, I'm A Believer, You Don't Bring Me Flowers, Sweet Caroline, I Am, I Said.
A Neil Diamond concert draws the sweet sting of childhood nostalgia out of the most cynical of hearts. His fans are probably the most intensely loyal in the pop-music fold, and no doubt a good many of those thousands that attended Sunday were the same lot who attended his almost identical concert three years ago.
Befitting a pop music veteran, Diamond delivered a highly polished, to-the-second orchestrated performance with a group of backing musicians as professionally seasoned as Diamond himself.
The sound was bell clear, the lighting choreographed to the note, and the stage was a fan-friendly, 360-degree rotating platform on which Diamond performed, surrounded by a sunken orchestra pit (there were no gimmicky props, save for the flags that dropped from the ceiling for America).
Diamond has lost much of his upper register, some songs are over produced, and his moves are pretty old-fashioned (albeit sweetly, i.e.: Pointing to the audience for dramatic emphasis.
Never mind. Diamond's vocals are an emotionally potent force and on songs like Play Me, he stretched the heartstrings to aching point.
Some he evidently took to breaking point, judging from the ear-splitting screams and exclamations of love. Diamond doesn't mind acting modest to the point of goofy or exhausted like a good-natured dad begged to give more (he appeared somewhat frail).
Diamond's fans are an adoring lot, indeed, which is only testimony to the endurance of those '70s pop gems with their smack-on melodies and sing-a-long phrasings.
The average fan in the room would be hard-pressed to identify the last hit song Diamond has had, but he will forever defy the cynical notion that you're only as good as your last record.
He could do little to turn off his fans, simply because his songs unleash sepia-tinged memories, and that's powerful stuff he's dishing out. As if to drive home the point, he included covers of As Time Goes By and Unchained Melody.
You couldn't help but eat it up, every sappy, exquisitely entertaining drop of it.
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No plans for New Years?
Go to Denver. And book now. That's where Neil Diamond will ring in the
millennium -- as a star who seems, improbably, as likely to own the 21st
century as he owned the last third of the 20th.
Sunday, the 58-year-old Brooklyn boy owned GM Place. Surrounded by
20,000 followers - producing more deafening roars than a season's worth
of Canucks games would - Diamond needed to do little more than point to
make women "and" men swoon.
Naturally, he did more than that. "I'd figured, considering his age,
that his voice would be toast" says lifelong Diamond devotee Pat
Kolecko, a 56-year-old Vancouverite. "But I didn't hear one person say,
"The old man's had it."
"Old Man? Ha. Had it? Hardly. From Brother Love's Traveling
Salvation Show to Love on the Rocks, to a double-shot of Sweet Caroline,
Diamond had the presence, the chops and the stamina - two hours and 20
minutes straight - to make believers out of skeptics and hold on tight
to the disciples.
"He did it for me again," says Kolecko. "Even the 70-year-old people
were up bopping."
Neil Sparkles Amidst Foggy, Wet Vancouver Evening.
The beautiful weather experienced for weeks in Vancouver did not greet Neil Diamond and his band Sunday August 15. The rainy, bleak and unseasonal climate was no match however for the brilliant non-stop 2 hour plus performance lavished upon approx. 25000 delighted fans.
Starting a little late (8:18pm) everyone was ripe and ready for what could be described as "The Best Hits of Neil Diamond". It was like hearing his albums but more--there he was--singing live all his fond songs lifting the music we've all heard on the car radio or home stereo to the stage--adding to the sound his tremendous professional ability to entertain and enliven the crowd. What a treat to hear it all and to share it with so many!
The 8 piece band and female voice backup were very animated and seemed to enjoy performing their night's work. We watched and heard songs such as "Hello Again", "Cherry Cherry", "Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon", "Solitary Man", "Shilo", "Forever in Blue Jeans", "Play Me", "I'm a Believer", "Love on the Rocks", "America", 3 songs from the Movie Album--"As Time Goes By", "I Need Your Love", and "Fools Rush In", then "Song Sung Blues (by this time almost all present in the audience were singing along). "Crackling Rosie", "Sweet Caroline", "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", "I am, I Said", "Soolaiman", "Holly Holy", and the finale of course "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show". Amen!!!
OK, enough, enough. We'll go home now. Neil delivered. God bless Neil Diamond.
Colin Howie Burnaby, British Columbia
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