Hi Joe

Here's the review which appeared in today's NZ Herald, Monday April 29, 1996. Will send the original to you by post with other clippings. The shirt he wore on Sunday was country style - yellow/black plaid with glitter and black pants.

NEIL DIAMOND MAKES THE GOOD TIMES SEEM SO GOOD
Neil Diamond in concert at the Ericsson Stadium on Saturday night.

A few beers, a rumpus room, a stereo with the bass tweaked up and you've got a middle New Zealand party. And chances are, depending on the age group and the level of inebriation, someone will pull out a Neil Diamond album - probably Hot August Night.

On Saturday night more than 40,000 fans - and thousands more for a concert yesterday - arrived from all over the North Island to see and hear the superstar in person.

We were there to have a good time, to singalong, clap, stand up and dance when told to and even when we weren't told to. And my, is Neil a pro at making sure we all thought ... "good times never seemed so gooood ..."

Twenty years ago when Diamond first performed here, it rained as only Auckland can. On Saturday night the sky cleared, the stars and a half-moon came out and Neil lifted his head and showed us he could still turn a number. Perhaps the fire in the belly is not quite what it used to be, the hair is greyer and the midriff thicker. But the audience - baby boomers, parents of baby boomers and even a few children of baby boomers - didn't mind a jot.

Diamond started and ended as he did Hot August Night - the infamous concert at California's Greek Theatre in 1972 - with Crunchy Granola and Brother Love's Travelling Salvation show.

For the two and a quarter hours in between came the hits he knew we wanted to hear - Solitary Man, Cherry Cherry, Sweet Caroline, Shilo, Girl You'll be a Woman Soon, Cracklin' Rosie, Soolaimon, Song Sung Blue, Forever in Blue Jeans.

Then came the one I'd been waiting for, I am ... I Said and out came my gold frog. This was sentimentality at its worst. Twenty years ago, when the New Zealand Herald was experimenting with child labour, I covered Diamond's visit here. He gave me a little gold frog wearing a crown (well, in fact all the entourage got a god frog), from that wonderful I am ... I said line "Did you ever read about a frog who dreamed of being a king, and then became one?"

True, American humorist Dave Barry took a vicious swipe at this very song by voting another line - "I am I said to no one there, no one heard at all not even the chair" - one of the silliest he's heard. But silly lyrics aside it's still a cracking good song.

Then came the inevitable push for the new album, Tennessee Moon. We sat politely through six pleasant but unremarkable numbers from the new album. The man who yelled out: "Play something we know Neil," pretty well summed it up. It would have been better if he'd sung Cracklin' Rosie and Song Sung Blue three times each.

But he thanked us for "letting us" sing the Tennessee Moon promos, blew kisses to the audience, wiggled his hips and grooved around in his incredibly loud - and spangly - red shirt. By the time he was back on to Hot August Night hits, all was forgiven. Then another hit-song break, this time to introduce all 10 members of the band (some who were here 20 years ago too) with accompanying solo spots to demonstrate the incredible amount of musical talent Diamond had up on the revolving stage with him. When backing vocalist, Linda Press, who has a leading-lady voice Andrew Lloyd Webber would die for, and Diamond sang You Don't Bring Me Flowers duet you could have heard one of the spangles drop off his shirt.

Twenty years ago I thought Neil Diamond was the hippest thing since David Cassidy ... the frog and I still do.

- Jane Phare


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