Des Moines Register, July 10, 1996.
This Time, reviewer finds a Diamond in the rough
Tuesday's show in Ames featured a songwriter intent on having fun.
By Patrick Beach

Ames, Ia.-And so- back into the belly of the beast we went braced for Another shot of love on the rocky not to mention schmaltz in the round courtesy of Neil Diamond. Except, and don't think I haven't weighed the consequences of what I'm about to say, it wasn't that bad a show. Diamond's first visit to Hilton Coliseum here in more than three years was buoyed, but not salvaged, by the secret weapon, that serves a lot of touring artists- namely, a passable new album.

Diamond's last show was so monumentally insincere all you could do was marvel at the man's audacity. But Tuesday's, before a near sellout of 14,515, while certainly not short of moves that would look great on "The love Boat," actually did the impossible: It restored a bit of credibility to a decent songwriter whose performances typically teeter over the canyon of self-parody.

Mother Ship Stage
On a stage that looked ominously a bit like the mother ship in "Independence Day" ("Help! They're shooting Diamonds at us! Oh, the humanity!"), Diamond dared to tuck a chunk of six new tunes, if you include the rebuilt "Kentucky Woman," not quite midway through the more than two-hour performance. In this section-which included both "Talking Optimistic Blues (Good Day Today)" and "Can Anybody Hear Me?"-Diamond was plainly not phoning it in. And even when the result didn't work, as on the laughable pass at John Lee Hooker blues, "No Limit," the attempt was noble. On his last tour, Diamond generated a wad of dough, a live CD and a divorce. Here, he seemed intent on having a bit of fun, even at the expense of fans who came to hear the tunes they already had drilled into their heads 1,000 times. It was a fairly bold move.

Not that he shorted anybody on the old stuff. He'd drop in a ballad for every couple of peppy ones, in the interest of keeping the crowd from moshing. The curdled catalog of polite pop oldies was trotted out once more, with spotty results that depended largely on the amount of warm sentiment audience members had for each tune.

Band Doesn't Help
His nine-member Las Vegas style touring band doesn't help. They've 80t a habit of pulling back when they should charge ahead, and the arrangements- especially the frilly treatment of "Solitary Man"-detracted from Diamond's elementary but humane lyrics. Also in the bummer department: He looked occasionally unit comfortable; when he waved his arms up high he looked like he should have gotten a lead in Oliver Stone's "Nixon." AND ALL THE SHOUTING IN THE MIDDLE OF SONGS IN THE NAME OF SOLIDARITY WITH FANS IS PHONY AND DISTRACTING.

Also, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" was as cynically scripted as when Jerry Lewis blubbers out "You'll Never Walk Alone" at the end of each telethon. Whaddaya want-sincerity? You're about as likely to get that at a Neil Diamond show as you are to get continental cuisine at a restaurant whose name ends in the words "Family Steakhouse." The fans got exactly what they demanded, which was a blazingly competent and fundamentally uninspired night of what sometimes passes for fun. And while it wasn't as bad as last time, Diamond remains to the concert experience what Epcot Center is to travel.

Diamond show thrills a younger generation
Editor's note: Following Patrick Beach's review of Neil Diamond's 1993 cancert in Ames, The Register received an avalanche of angry responses from readers who took issue with his assesment of the performance. This time out, Datebook offered readers the chance to serve up their own review of the concert alongside Beach's. The unnner of a drawing from reader postcards was 14year-old Ali Mostrom of West Des Moines. Here Is Ali,'s review:

Ames, Ia.-Who is Neil Diamond? That was the first question I asked when I was told I had been chosen to review the Neil Diamond concert. It didn't take me long, though, to figure out, once my mom told me about some of his songs. And it took me even less time at the concert. Diamond is definitely a showman. He told the crowd basically, "Have fun, whether you want to or not." And, boy, did they. When lights would hit the crowd, it seemed to command them, and they would stand and clap. He would bow, and they would clap some more. His voice hasn't changed much. He has this really rich sound, which he showed off with "Love on the Rocks" and most of the ballads. I liked how he mixed his oldies with the new "Tennessee Moon" stuff, instead of just focusing all on his new album.

"Hello" and "Kentucky Woman" were my favorites. I liked the old songs, but you could notice he had a fresh air when he did the new songs, those he hadn't sung over and over and over. I really liked the ballads, I guess, which is rare for someone of my generation. The ballads just caused the audience to go silent, almost in awe. Just sort of "wow." He himself is really appealing to anybody, including the younger generation. I wouldn't be surprised if his new stuff could be really pop-ular in the '9Os.


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