Diamond Shines On in Tampa
By Logan Neill
Times Staff Writer
Face it, good showmanship just never goes out of style. Elvis. Sinatra. The Rolling Stones. Their lengthy careers epitomize that fact.

Critics often assail Neil Diamond: his songs are lightweight and shallow, and his husky-toned voice -- well, just isn't much of one. There is no denying that decade after decade, his fans turn out in droves when one of pop music's true showmen comes to town.

The 23,000 fans who packed the Ice Palace on Saturday couldn't have been disappointed with the 55-year-old singer's 2 1/2 hour, non stop show that was as much a testament of his enduring popularity as it was his physical endurance.

As accustomed his audience is to past productions that were submerged in pretentious super-glitzy effects, Diamond seemed happy to throw more of a focus on his music, even mentioning to the audience that his first professional performance took place in Tampa many years ago.

''I'm glad you've welcomed me back like this,'' h said as they bathed him in applause.

And so it went for the rest of the evening. Diamond, on a revolving stage and backed by his nine-piece band of 20 years, took his mostly boomer-plus audience back through a polished, well-paced look at his 30-year career, digging out memories and melodies that probably account for countless ''our songs'': I Am...I Said, Holly Holy, September Morn. (He even chronicled his career in video images that scoured the historical landscape since the 1966 release of Cherry Cherry)

It was the vintage stuff that Diamond put most of his energy toward. By the time he got to his finale, America, he had them on their feet in adulation as they pumped fists in wide smiles.

As he rolled through the gospel-tinged Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, Diamond stood preacherlike as he led the crowd through the chorus in a rafter-ringing pitch -- something only a showman could do.

submitted by Theresa Goodliffe


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