By Joe Ehrbar, Staff Writer
Spokesman-Review (Spokane, WA)
Two years ago, retirement pounded furiously on Neil Diamond's career. Had he quit, it would have been the most unspectacular and disappointing finish to a distinctive recording career that spans over four decades. At the time, Diamond had just released a live double-album called "Live in America," and sorry, Neil, it was awful.

His voice was spent. His enthusiasm was absent. He just barked out about two dozen songs, showing just how bad his classic hits could sound. "Beautiful Noise" sure wasn't beautiful; it was just noise.

A lot has changed in the two years that have passed. On Saturday, Diamond, now in his 50's, looked like a man enjoying a massive rejuvenation as he rendered an electrifying performance at a sold-out Spokane Arena.

His rich baritone voice was in fine shape, resonating with bravado and -- as he promised -- lifting the ceiling a couple of inches. He didn't bark or hack his way through the night. He sang well and finished each note earnestly.

Diamond's enthusiasm was like that of a man half his age. This wasn't stiff old senior-citizen Neil on stage. No, he boogied across the revolving stage like a dancing fool. (It got a little corny when he struck poses similar to those in "Saturday Night Fever.")

His contagious showmanship baited the audience, lured them in and whipped them into a frenzy. Simply, the pop icon had fun on stage, and the crowd had fun watching him. The crooner's 12,000+ adoring fans clapped, sang, swayed, waved and yelled for two-plus hours.

Diamond's voice grew exceedingly better as the night wore on. The singer rendered his most impassioned performance on the half-dozen new songs from his album "Tennessee Moon." And understandably so.

It was during the writing and recording of these songs that Diamond -- whose recording career was in shambles -- got his second wind.

Curiously enough, the tunes -- including "Marry Me," "One Good Love" and "Everybody" -- have a country edge. On stage, however, they were transformed into the usual fare of feel-good pop, containing only the slightest twitches of country.

Like a pro, Diamond had the keen sense to not overwhelm the audience with newer, mostly unfamiliar songs. They paid to hear the hits, on which he sang his heart out. Among the highlights were "September Morn," "Cherry, Cherry," "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," "Beautiful Noise,""Desiree" and "Hello Again."

After all of these years, Neil Diamond can still entertain. One thing's for sure, he won't be retiring any time soon.

Submitted by: Joan Jensen

Back to Concert Review List || Back to the Neil Diamond Home Page