MOLINE-Neil Diamond always will have a somewhat sa-cred relationship with The Mark of the Quad Cities. Back in 1993, the man once dubbed "the Jewish Elvis" opened the civic center with two soldout shows. The feat established the Quad Cities as an area hungry for quality entertainment and begat a pattern of success for the Mark that has yet to be broken.
Mr. Diamond repeated history last night, pleasing a delerious sold out contingent of almost 11,000 in his first visit to the arena since that auspicious beginning Striding across a revolving stage that belted out lasers, lights, holograms and a vaguely blueberry-scented smoke, Mr. Diamond struck gold with a set built to impress-heavy on the familiar oldies and peppered with new gems. It was a can't miss performance, and naturally, it lived up to the billing.
Backed by a crack nine-piece outfit, Mr. Diamond's still-amaz-ing voice was given an ornate musical garden in which to blossom. His new material, off the freshly minted "Tennessee Moon," particularly benefited from this lushness. The sincere, soft "Marry Me" and the gospel flecked "One Good Love" sounded much richer live. And "Can Anybody Hear Me?" with its sauntering melody, was given a fine, antique sound: Vintage Diamond with a 1996 flair.
Unfortunately, nothing could save the uber-lame "Good Day." The weakest song off "Moon," it's best described as a tepid country version of the theme from "Friends." 'Nuff said! (An aside: Despite reports of Mr. Diamond "going country' on this disc, the album is far from a paean to pickups and possum hunting While it has some Nashville flavoring, it bears the unmistakable song-writing and vocal stylings of Mr. Diamond's pop work.)
But what people came out in droves to see were the classics, and they were hard and heavy. Like a man turning tha pages on a photo album to the smiles of his children, Mr. Diamond spun them out one-by-one to the thick applause and swaying bodies of his devoted. And with his comfortable baritone taking on the quality of a fine wine with age, the numbers held their original charms. The smokey, seductive "Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon" got a warm reception, as women and girls alike swooned over Mr. Diamond's every swivel and gesture. "Desiree" got everyone bopping and clapping with a sunny swing. "Song Sung Blue" was one of many tunes that got everyone up on their feet to sing along and bring their hands together in the rhythm.
The charming "Forever In Blue Jeans" was more of a youth serum than a boatload of Retin-A. Smiles widened at the approach of its chorus and the bobbing heads and shoulders of the congregation seen as a group looked like a painting of "the wave" assembled by Picasso. "Shiloh" was sweet, and the rising, powerful chorus of "Kentucky Woman" was a real adrenaline pumper.
A real highlight was the somber "You Don't Bring Me Flowers.' Accompanied only by a wan piano and Linda Perez' vocals, it was delicious for its sad, austere beauty. Mr. Diamond's vocal stylings lent a tired weight that made it an the more poignant. The anthemic "Coming to America" whipped the throng into a frenzy zy as the show built up to close on a: high note.
It's pretty safe to say the satisfied bunch leaving The Mark humming will be more than willing to meet Mr? Diamond again with open arms if and when he chooses to again return. He may be a son of New York, but it's sure that Mr. Diamond will always be able to call the Quad Cities his own.
~ It wasn't so much the words as such, it was the way they were sung. And how Neil Diamond sang them, to a cheering waving, enthusiastic, full-house crowd that welcomed him back to The Mark of the Quad-Cities in Moline. For more than two hours Wednesday night, he entertained the throng in celebration of the civic center's third-year anniversary. - At the beginning of the show, animated neon images-including flying birds and musical notes -, took the center of the stage along with a Vegas-style light show. And then Diamond appeared. . "Hello again, Quad-Cities!" he shouted as fans stood or applauded in greeting. He broke into his "crunchy granola Song. which never sounded so sweet, and followed that with another familiar tune, "Desiree."
''We are happy to be back hare," he said. "If you'll Member, we opened this building. So we have to return every couple of years to keep our lease going. Within seconds, during an in-the-round presentation that didn't lose momentum for a second, even during the ballads, he broke into "Hello Again." " While the stage turned, Diamond sometimes took the center ]spot on a platform just above his hardworking band and sometimes walked or danced around the perimeter. He played to every Action of the crowd, shielding his Ayes from the dazzling lights so he could take a look at the audience from the highest reaches to "the front-row floor seats.
Among the other favorites that had the audience clapping and/or singing and/or dancing along Are "Solitary Man," "Girl, You'll e a Woman Soon," "Cherry, Cherry" and "Beautiful Noise.". His ballads, such as "September Morn" and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," brought female screams of delight, as did his new slow number, "Marry Me." And during "Play Me," the squeals were frantic after he crooned "Come take me."
Among the new songs from his recent "Tennessee Moon" release was "No Limit." While he sang his new material, a group of folks in the front held up signs that had "10+" written on them in a sort of positive Neil-ympics judging of the more unfamiliar melodies. On the studio version of the slow, sweet "One Good Love," he sings with Waylon Jennings. "The bad news is that Waylon can't be here to sing it with me tonight," he said. "And the good news is ... who cares?"
Always, Diamond kept up the pace, along with the band. Sometimes the orchestration was lush and full; sometimes he picked up an acoustic g uitar to accompany himself. And sometimes he gave the numbers a sort of "unplugged" feel with just a few band members joining in.
This was a show with no "anthill" motion; the audience, for the most part, stayed in its seats. And there was no intermission, either. Instead, toward the middle of the program, Diamond gave his voice a welltimed and innovative little singing break by introducing the band members, each of whom played a brief, but well-wrought, solo, from steel drums to keyboards to electric guitar. "I'm lucky enough to be the vocalist for this group," he said. The audience felt lucky, too, swaying in unison to 'Song Sung Blue," and clapping along to the more intense sounds of "Holly Holy" and "Soolaimon," as well as "I Am, I Said." During "America," U.S. nags unfurled above Diamond as he delivered his patriotic punch.
Constantly, the crowd rose to its feet, hollered and cheered- the perfect audience for a man who "never cared for the sound of being alone."