Neil Diamond might be living in the past, but his fans are still lining up to keep the popular singer company. The first of Diamond's two are appearances Monday night at the Civic Arena, Uptown, showcased the entertainer's polished showmanship and still potent pipes.
Touring in support of ''Tennessee Moon,'' his first album of all-new material in five years, Diamond made sure to include enough classics to keep the crowd satisfied, while unleashing some of his newest creations to enliven the evening for himself.
Many of Diamond's songs are like old friends that visit all too infrequently. From the haunting ''Hello Again,'' to the rollicking ''Forever in Blue Jeans'' his song catalog has aged as well as he has.
Wearing a glittering shirt with thin vertical stripes, Diamond appeared to enhoy thoroughly yet another stop in a virtual lifetime of touring. Strolling across the gently rotating stage, Diamond blended his newer songs with the classics without losing any of the jubilant crowd. Newer songs like ''One Good Love'' and the lively ''Can Anybody Hear Me'' showed his songwriting chops haven't completely deserted him, even if the fans cry out the hardest for songs he penned at the start of his career.
After a few numbers, his gestures and dance steps assumed a rather robotic similarity. After three decades in the business, Diamond has honed his stage persona to a science. Every gesture comes forth as both loving and sincere, even though his arms must have cradled some songs thousands of times throughout his career.
A cautiously paced ''Hello Again'' showed his willingness to slow even the quietest ballads to wring every emotion from the words. Diamond's voice came out burlier than one might expect at first. But the veteran crooner quickly worked through the kinks, his vocals growing stronger with each song.
Lyrically, the singer/songwriter never met a sappy emotion he didn't eagerly embrace. But it's benn his unwavering gift to weave overzealous lyrics up in his rich voice to make them unforgettable.
Diamond began his impressive string of pop hits in the '60s, and through constant touring has kept his fans clamoring for more of the same ever since.
As a singer, Neil Diamond always has been hard to characterize. Part balladeer, part pop-rocker,part throwback to earlier epochs - you know, just know, that he would have thrilled those legendary bobby-soxers with his restrained but groovy moves - he never has quite seemed to fit in with any of the musical earthquakes and sea changes that have occurred during his 30-year career.
He is a balladeer who screams, a la Edith Piaf. He is a pop singer for whom lyrics really matter, a la Scot Walker in his European days. He can be corny and patriotic, a la John Philip Sousa. "Two lovers playing scenes from some romantic plsy," he sighs wistfully in "September Morn". "We'll leave this world on your winged flight," he declares hopefully in "Longfellow Serenade."
Many of us know most of the words. Certainly most of the people who came out in force Monday night for his nearly sold-out concert at the Civic Arena did. From the start, they rose en masse to bop to such upbeat Diamond classics as "Cherry, Cherry" and "Forever in Blue Jeans," only to sit back down to listen pensively to such downbeat ones as "Love on the Rocks" and "You Dont't Bring Me Flowers."
All in all, though it was about what you'd expect when Neil Diamond comes to town. That signature voice and sensibility. That rush of memories sparked by his songs.
Backed by nine wonderful musicians, he performed in the round on a clever, revolving stage with synchronized laser lights and smoke. I thought the sound was a bit loud - the synthesizers made you feel as if you were standing near a 747 - and the stage after a while made me dizzy.