A NON-STOP GEM OF A NIGHT FROM DIAMOND
One month short of the 30th anniversary of his first US hit, Neil Diamond appeared in the round at the NEC last night--looking as fresh as a new spring daisy. At 55 the master performed more than 20 songs virtually non-stop for two hours before leaving the stage sseemingly no more tired than the minute he walked on.
From that very first hit, Solitary Man, through to plenty of new songs from his well received new album Tennessee Moon, Diamond earned the right to have the audience in his pocket. Not only does he write his own songs, of course--everyone from Barbra Straisand to the Monkees, UB40, Lulu, and Cliff Richard have recorded his works -- but he can't half sing'em too.
Unlike some other so-called stars, he also talks a good talk in between numbers. He doesn't walk off half way through to put on a new shirt, preferring to introduce his won marvellous band.
Nor Does he disappear at encore time. He simply steps to one side, lets the band enjoy a bit more of the spotlight and then carries on where he left off, barnstorming his way to the finishing line with hits like Sweet Caroline and Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.
With the five-year recording break having sesemingly recharded his batteries, Diamond truly enjoyed himself last night to the point that he even sang Forever In Blue Jeans twice. Catch him at the NEC again tonight and tomorrow.
The Times (London) Tuesday, May 28
Review by Paul Sexton
Diamond the human jukebox;
FOREVER IN BLUE JEANS(Wembley Arena)
Neil Diamond's last hit single of any substance in this country was in 1980. But any suggestion that he might be working in reduced circumstances is soon answered by a glance at his UK itinerary. Diamond is on a 15-date tour of England's arena circuit and the demand to watch a true king of easy listening cannot, it seems, be sated.
Therein lies the difference between Diamond and the commercially motivated "cheesy-listening" movement of recent months. His love songs have an unaffected universatility about them and are built with such impeccable writing specifications that they leave little room for ironic reinterpretation.
Furthermore, Diamond'snew album, Tennessee Moon, is first record of new songs for five years, displays creative renewal, repositioning his skills alongside Nashville luminaries such as Waylon Jennings, Chet Atkins and Raul Malo of the Mavericks witout diluting his sound under a country hat.
Playing here in the round, he joined his ten-piece band on a revolving state, and the audience was on its feet before Diamond had sung a note. Over the following two hours, 10,000 devotees were wilingly manipulated by old-school glamour in one of the most opulently mounted productions the Arena has housed in a long time.
At 55, the singer wisely does not play up his sex-symbol status, even though an early lyrical reference to "bed" in Play Me brought a chorus of screams. New songs, including Tennessee Moon itself and Everybody, stood up well against his bulging portfolio of standards. Diamond has developed the unfortunate tactic of growling any line that his lower register can no longer countanance. but this crowd cared not, cheering Hello Again, Forever in Blue Jeans, Sweet Caroline and countless others.
After introducing his excellent group, he announded:"Together this band and I travel the world trying to make beautiful noises." The line, like the show, was delivered without irony. Showbiz is alive in Wembley this week.