In what he said was his 10th visit to the Providence Civic Center, the singer-songwriter proved once again he's a consummate showman, taking center stage in a glittery two-hour show that gave the audience just what it wanted.
The show was heavy on his past songs -- most of which have become instantly recognizable classics. But there was also a quartet of new ones from his recent Tennessee Moon album and even one from an about-to-be-released retrospective album, In My Lifetime, a looking-back song that includes actual historic recordings of such things as Neil Armstrong's moon walk statement.
But whether he was singing something new, or something that the audience had heard hundreds of times and Diamond had sung thousands of times -- Forever in Blue Jeans or Love on the Rocks or America -- he made each one sound as though it was the first time. Diamond brings a spirited enthusiasm to his uptempo songs; a dramatic reading to his romantic ballads. Thus, You Don't Bring Me Flowers, his sentimental hit originally recorded with Barbra Streisand and performed last night with backup singer Linda Press, got the full treatment in which he wrung out every ounce of wistfulness.
The staging was dramatic too. Diamond played on a revolving stage with plenty of special lighting effects and smoke. The opening number, preceded by a laser light show of diamonds and seagulls projected on a gauzey curtain that looked like a jellyfish, and accompanied by dizzily swaying multicolored spotlights, looked like something out of Independence Day. Here comes the mother ship!
But when Diamond sang Hello Again, and got to the line ''Hello, my friends, hello,'' he seemed to mean it. After decades o performing he's a master at reaching out to the audience.
The show was a mix of toe-tapping, hand-clapping, body-swaying rhythms --Solitary Man, Cracklin' Rosie, Sweet Caroline, Beautiful Noise, Holly Holy, the new Can Anybody Hear Me? which had the audience shouting back that they could -- to his powerful anthems --I Am...I Said, America, -- to his romantic ballads -- One Good Love, and You Don't Bring Me Flowers.
His fans ate it up, often leaping to their feet, clapping their hands over their heads in rhythm. When he did Forever in Blue Jeans, just about everyone in the sold-out hall was on their feet. But not all. Diamond swore that he saw six people out of 14,000 sitting down. So he did it again and this time virtually everyone was standing.
And when people thougth the show was over, it wasn't. Diamond was greeting and thanking people even after he had no more songs to sing.