Concert Reviews -- Boston, MA

The Boston Globe - Friday June 21, 1996
Neil Diamond Plays an Ace
by Steve Morse

Forever-young Neil Diamond has been around the world lately, playing in Ireland, Australia, and New Zealand. Last night was the first date of his US tour and he was clearly ecstatic. 'Its nice to be home!' said Diamond in his amiable, low-baritone voice, immediately entrancing a sold-out, all-ages crowd of 19,600 fans at the Fleet Center.

It was the first of three sold-out nights at the Fleet - and proved how tight and impeccably constructed this hit-spiced show has become after two months of globe-trotting. From the opening burst of lasers on the satirical 'Crunchy Granola' to the unfurling of two giant American flags near the end, the show moved like a production manager's dream.

Diamond was again completely comfortable with the theater-in-the-round format he has favored during the '90's. The 46 foot diameter stage, which had a red-oak inlaid top that reflected the light beautifully, also revolved and had ramps from which Diamond would periodically descend to heighten the intimacy for an audience that couldn't get enough of his relaxed but eager-to-please prescence.

Nor could they get enough of his hit songs, which came by the bushel, including his first hit, 'Cherry Cherry,' which dates back 30 years this very month. It popped up early in the show and set the tone for the easy-loping night. Diamond even reprised its simple, syncopated beat, adding, ''We've got to do it again until everybody is up and moving!''

And presto, they were there, whether they were seniors looking to relive their youth, or teens and twentysomethings catching the Diamond vibe for the first time. By the end of the two hour plus show, there were loge to loge, balcony to balcony smiles, suggesting a genuine communal bliss

Unlike recent theater in the round tours by Rod Sewart and Reba McEntire, this one put most of the focus on the songs, rather than special effects....Diamond glided around ever so lightly, tugging at the crowd's emotions rather than their sense of dramatics.

Other than a few lasers and the American flags at the end, there were few histrionics. It was mostly Diamond at center stage, with the band arrayed beneath him, starring guitar phenom Doug Rhone and percussionist Kin Errisson and Vince Charles (wouldn't you know a king and a prince would back Diamond?).

Singer Linda Press came up for a haunting duet on ''You Don't Bring Me Flowers'' and several other members came up for a tasty unplugged segment on new songs ''Everybody'' (sensitively written with Diamond's son, Jesse) and ''Marry Me.'' Before the latter, the newly divorced Diamond induced a laugh by saying, ''When songwriters are married, they write divorce songs. When they are divorced, they write married songs. I'd like to do a married song for you.''

The new tunes were evocative - and sometimes funny, such as ''Talking Optimist Blues'', a fast paced, Phil Ochs type Everyman number in which Diamond sang ''I'm going to have a good day'' regardless of tax problems, alimony blues and other headaches that many folks confromt every day. The most spellbinding new song, though, was ''One Good Love,'' which appears as a duet with Waylon Jennings on the new ''Tennessee Moon'' album. Diamond wisely sang it himself this time.....

Menawhile, the hits kept coming. There were strings of them early (Solitary Man, and Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon) and strings of them later with Holly Holy, I Am...I Said, and America followed by pop sing-alongs Sweet Caroline and Cracklin Rosie.

Of further interest was Diamond's pitch perfect rendition of the Beatles' Golden Slumbers. Said Diamond: ''We were in England and its almost disrespectful not to sing at least one Beatles song.'' Like everything else he did last night, the crowd loved it as though it were his own song.

The Boston Herald Friday June 21, 1996
Fleet Faithful Agree Diamond is a Rare Gem
by Dean Johnson

Neil Diamond not only sang about Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show at the FleetCenter last night, he all but acted out the role. The pop superstar brought a preacher's zeal to his sold-out concert, and the audience responded to the two hour plus show with the same heady, evangelical enthusiasm.

During ''Cherry Cherry'', four songs into the set, many people were waving their hands over their heads in a state of bliss.

Diamond is a curious creation, a unique hybid made of a little Vegas glitz, a little Tin Pan Alley and a little over the top pop. He knows his way around a good melody, and he has the best sideburns, eyebrows and grimace in the business hands down. His 26-song show allowed the 55-but-svelte Dimaond to take on everything from his earliest tunes off his just-released ''Tennessee Moon'' disc and even a strangely effective rendition of the Beatles' ''Golden Slumbers.''

The center-stage production featured a rotating hub that allowed Diamond to face most of his worshipful fans (Best sign: a ''10+'' judge's score) without moving. Clad in simple black slacks and a colorful stiped shirt, he told his listeners the Boston show was his first on American turf after a tour of Europe and the Pacific. They screamed. He told them they were a wonderful crowd. They screamed. He just stood there. They still screamed, often with a Beatlesque intensity.

The FleetCenter sound was as good as it has yet been for a major pop concert, and Diamond shrewdly paced his set to include most of the mandatory hits.....

But it wasn't strictly an oldies show. Diamond took the time to introduce his nine-piece band and gave it some space to work out. Genterally, that's nothing more than padding at most concerts, but the musicians he's assembled are so extraordinary that their solo segment was a minor highlight.

Diamond also offered up a fair slice of his new disc, and a tune such as ''Can Anybody Hear Me'' was easy evidence he still knows how to whip up a deviously catchy song.

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