New Orleans review
The Times-Picayune - December 4, 1996
The songs remain the same for Diamond
By KEITH SPERA
Neil Diamond is trapped by his legacy. The longtime fans who still turn out
to see him demand "Kentucky Woman," "Forever in Blue Jeans," "Sweet
Caroline," "Cracklin' Rosie" and the other decades-old anthems that have
become part of their lives. In an effort to give the people what they wanted
at the UNO Lake-front Arena on Sunday night, Diamond came across as more
professional than passionate.
After opening with "A Matter of Love," from his recent "Tennessee Moon" CD,
the show followed a predictable course: a smattering of familiar numbers,
then a segment devoted to the new album, followed by a build toward the big
hits and his traditional show-closer, "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation
Brother Love was not as ecstatic as he once was; Diamond has definitely
grayed with his au-dience. The shaggy-haired, swashbuckling
singer/songwriter of the early '70s who favored fringed jackets appeared
Sunday in a red, white and black sequined shirt tucked neatly into his black
Diamond still runs through the moves of a rock 'n' roller: the clenched-face
grimace, mouth agape as the head nods back and forth. An extended index
finger variously pointed like a pistol and held aloft in a "No. 1" salute.
But they were delivered with perfunctory studiousness as he strolled
serenely around the gently revolving stage, not a hair out of place. The
show, both in its pacing and slick production the "in-the-round" stage was
illuminated by a sleek lighting show was well-suited for Las Vegas, or
maybe Branson, Mo.
Diamond's extended introduction of his band was accompanied by schmaltzy
quips ("He's not wearing those sunglasses to show how cool he is," Diamond
said of his guitarist, "but to protect his retinas from my shirt"). He
grandly blew big kisses. Flags unfurled during "America." In the cheesiest
moment, lasers spelled out L-I-F-E-T-I-M-E as Diamond sang "In My Lifetime,"
the title track from his new boxed-set retrospective.
Most members of his nine--piece band have been with him for 20-plus years;
they turned in solid, if not particularly invigorated, performances. Some of
the freshest moments of the show were created when the drummer (on snare and
brushes), bassist and acoustic guitarist joined Diamond on the center
platform for a spry, stripped-down interlude.
Diamond can still convey emotion. The brooding resignation was evident in
his voice in the opening lines of "Love on the Rocks." And his bittersweet
duet/dance with backing vocalist Linda Press on "You Don't Bring Me Flowers"
was suitably melancholic.
But studied professionalism ruled the day, the kind that al-lows him to sing
"You are the sun, I am the moon/You are the words, I am the tune . . . play
me" for the umpteenth time and still seem like he feels them. And Diamond
the entertainer certainly knows how to push his audience's buttons. Early
on, he had to request singing, clapping and dancing ("if you have the
nerve!"); by the show's conclusion, crowd participation had a momentum of
Diamond moved gracefully within the gilded cage that has become his career.
Too bad he wasn't able to rattle it.
submitted by Iris Gerhardt
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