Neil Diamond Sparkles in Lively, Hit Filled Show
By Michael Oxley - Cincinnati Enquirer contributor

OK, so the concert started 15 minutes late. It just gave Thursday night's near-sellout audience at Riverfront Coliseum 15 more minutes to warm up before Neil Diamond took the stage.

It's a good thing they were prepared. Mr. Diamond gave the appreciative crowd their money's worth with a two hour, 15 minute concert and no intermission.

It's surprising how many Neil Diamond songs we know well. "Solitary Man," "Forever in Blue Jeans." Mr. Diamond needed two hours-plus to get to his many pop hits. The voice may not hold notes as it once did (especially the ballads), but Mr. Diamond gave a great show. A circular stage held a central platform allowing Mr. Diamond to play to the entire arena.

He performed a veritable litany of hits, including a great rendition of "Soolaimon," a smoky "Love on the Rocks" (a favorite with his mostly female audience) and one of his better-known songs, "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," sung with backup vocalist Linda Press.

The stage-in-the-round also contained a great backup band, one that knew where the spotlight was and was careful not to usurp it. It was a tight sound, well balanced and mixed.

Why has Neil Diamond remained a hit-maker for so long? Commited performances, yes. Careful and effective lights and sound, you bet. But his true craft is words and music.

This especially came through in a mini-set of new songs Mr. Diamond performed with only the guitar, bass and snare with brushes. It was clear that behind the performer is someone who knows a good song.

From this set it was one long build to the finish with "Coming to America," Craklin' Rose" and a rendition of "Sweet Caroline" that left the crowd roaring - and feeling good.

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