Rapid City Journal
by Karen Brown
November 11, 1996

It wasn't your usual concert crowd filing the arena at the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center Sunday night. There were no cowboy hats, no multi-colored hair-dos, no grunge clothing or Harley T-shirts.

Instead, the 9,500 people who showed up to see Neil Diamond were dressed as ordinary citizens. Dressed as simply as blue jeans to as fancy as furs, the mostly middle aged audience got downright rowdy when the Prince of Pop Music took stage.

Actually, they got rowdy before Diamond even stepped before the lights. A circular screen dropped from the ceiling, and on it appeared a swirling mass of 3-D images accompanied by a building frenzy of music. That got the audience going. It brought cheers from the capacity crowd. So did the announcement, "This is a smoke-free building."

Neil Diamond bound on stage singing "Crunchy Granola," and I couldn't hear him. After this enormous build-up, he was drowned out by his 9 piece band and back-up singers. The elaborate circular stage on which he performed offered some wonderful staging for the concert, but when his back was to me I really couldn't hear him. At first.

Thank goodness that little problem was short-lived because his next song, "Hello Again," was crystal clear, and Diamond let forth with the voice that is his and only his. The band was studio sounding in its clarity. And so followed a string of hits that this audience was dying to hear. Songs like, "Solitary Man," "Cherry Cherry," and "Kentucky Woman."

The up-tempo numbers were rousing, and Diamond encouraged the fans to dance and clap, which they did; perhaps not with the wild abandon one might expect from their teen-age children but certainly with some restrained enthusiasm.

For me, it's this singer's ballads that define his enormous talent. When Dianond sang "Play me," he succeeded in creating the intimacy he was striving for. His voice has gotten a ittle raspier with age, but if anything, it lends character to his music. Diamond is a showman of the highest caliber. He wears his songs like a comfortable pair of shoes, albeit a passionate pair of shoes. His clothing was almost simple: black slacks and a red, white and black striped shirt with just a touch of glitter. It was down-to-earth glitzy.

He performs every nuance, moving as if his own body is one of the musical instruments. He connects with his audience in the most gracious and generous manner. Interspersed among the old favorites were some songs from his current album, "Tennessee Moon." These songs also have that unique, Neil Diamond feel to them. A song he co-wrote with one of his children called "Everybody" was particularly moving as was a song I expect will pop up at more weddings entitled "Marry Me."

Then it was back to the popular favorites, with a huge ovation given for "Forever in Blue Jeans" with its own built-in encore. And the ovations just got bigger and bigger, with songs like "Song Sung Blue," "Sweet Caroline," "Coming to America," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" and "Cracklin' Rosie."

Diamond's show is carefully choreographed, from the gestures to the funny banter. However, it sounds as fresh as if it was being performed for the first time in Rapid City. It is so obvious that Diamond loves to perform. You can't fake sincerity, and he's clearly having the time of his life when he's onstage. On Sunday night, Neil Diamond gave his all and that's all the audience wanted.

I thought this was a super review from a place that is not used to having Neil come to their area.

Submitted by Bev Lawrence

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