New Orleans review
The Times-Picayune - December 4, 1996
The songs remain the same for Diamond
By KEITH SPERA
Music writer
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 Show."
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 slacks.
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 its own.
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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