Neil Diamond

Concert Reviews - Billings, MT August 28, 1999
 

Diamond delivers a gem of a show

By SUSAN OLP
The Billings Gazette

There we were - 11,000 people on Saturday night, standing on our feet,

singing "woe, woe, woe," with Neil Diamond.

What a sight.

But wait, I'm getting ahead of myself. This tale actually begins more than a

few years ago when I was a sophomore in high school, living in another state.

I won two tickets to a Neil Diamond concert, but since I didn't have my

driver's license yet I talked my brother into going with me.

The opening act was a little known group, the Stone Ponies, with an equally

unknown lead singer, Linda Ronstadt. Then came Neil Diamond, who put on a

great show and sang some of his most recent hits, including "Sweet Caroline"

and "Solitary Man."

I remember one other thing. In those days, people could bring their cameras

to the concert (unlike Saturday night). On that night, everyone kept taking

flash photos. So, at one point, Diamond had the lighting technician turn off

all the lights in the auditorium and told everyone who had a camera to take a

picture on the count of three. It lit up the room, and everyone went wild.

Some things have changed since that last concert I attended. Now I'm the

mother of three, and my oldest son, Pat, is a sophomore in high school. So

when I got the chance to review this Neil Diamond concert, I convinced him to

come with me. OK, so I promised him dinner out and I told him we'd have good

seats. He came, didn't he?

He's only heard Neil Diamond's songs on the local oldies station, so this

would be a new experience for him. For me, it would be a trip down memory

lane.

My son did point out to me, as the multitudes were filing into the Metra for

the concert, that the crowd seemed to be mostly middle-aged and older. So

what? Obviously I wasn't the only one who had seen the singer before and

enjoyed the experience.

Diamond performed his concert in the round on a revolving stage that also

housed the musicians. When I looked at the lighting and sound set up above

the stage, it reminded me of the bottom of the alien space ship in the

Spielberg movie, "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."

A few minutes before the concert started, a fog-making machine began cranking

out, well, fog. Then the lights went low, the spotlights came up, Neil

Diamond came on stage and the audience rose to its feet.

Diamond was a little grayer than the last time I saw him, and he has a

receding hairline. But his energy level hasn't diminished. He put on a

two-hour-plus show - this time with no opening act - and only one backup

singer to accompany him.

Dressed in black pants and a sequined black shirt, he opened the show with

the song, "Can Anybody Hear Me?" By the clapping and the cheers, it was

obvious the audience had.

A couple of Diamond fans held up signs, one with hearts on it. He

acknowledged them with a wave and a smile.

The singer's voice was a little rough around the edges - but then I guess it

always has been. It was full and rich, and the only song he might have

skipped and been better for it was "Holly Holy," which he sang second to

last. By then his voice was nearly gone, and the song added nothing to the

otherwise wonderful performance.

Diamond brought the audience frequently to its feet, to clap and sing along

to many of the songs he's recorded over the years. That included "Thank the

Lord for the Night Time," and "Solitary Man." He also sang many more of the

songs most of the audience knows him for - from the upbeat "Cherry, Cherry,"

to the quieter, lovely "Play Me," to the song that got one of the biggest

rounds of applause of the evening, "Coming to America."

He and back-up singer Linda Press did a nice rendition of "You Don't Bring Me

Flowers," originally a duet with Barbra Streisand. And he got the entire

audience to accompany him and the band in the song "Sweet Caroline." We sang

"woe, woe, woe," and "so good, so good, so good," (And we sounded pretty darn

good, by golly).

Diamond closed the evening with a rousing version of "Brother Love's

Traveling Salvation Show." It's about a revival show. And that's what the

evening was for me, a revival of memories.

As for my son, here's what he had to say afterward: "It was a very

high-energy show and I loved it. The lights were amazing, and Neil Diamond

was an excellent performer."

So, for both of us, thanks Neil. We and about 11,000 other people had a great

time. Woe, woe, woe.

Copyright The Billings Gazette, a division of Lee Enterprises.


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