DIAMOND'S MANY FACETS
by Tom Harrison
In a few more nights, when August burns its way into summer, the fans will still be talking about a hot July night with Neil Diamond. The parallel is too appropriate to ignore or resist. Diamond's Hot Augut Night album of the early 70's established his reputation as a showman and for the past 25 years he has remained one of pop's consistent, top concert draws.
His popularity as an entertainer has been unaffected by his more tumultuous status as a recording artist or that he's about as hip as a leisure suit, which lots of people actually bought and wore and which now has a curiously kitschy retro-magnetism.
Thus it was that last (hot July) night's concert at GM Place reaffirmed why his fans will keep coming back to see Diamond even if fewer of them will go out and buy his latest record. That record is Tennessee moon, written and recorded in Nashville in a country-pop vein that has brought the one time brill building folk-rock tunesmith more worthy attention than he's had in years. Diamond dutifully performed a few tracks from the album, most notable of which was the Everly-Brothers-styled No Limit, which struck a neat little rockabilly groove thanks to drummer ron Tutt who has been around long enough to know what that's all about.
Otherwise, the loudest handclapping and aisle-dancing was reserved for the rousing older hits Cherry Cherry and the hopelessley damp Forever In Blue Jeans while ther were romantic puddles created by the new Marry Me and the old September Morn - during which two women waltzed alone, which shows the power of Diamond at his most fulsome.
Shilo, Beautiful Noise, Play Me, Kentucky Woman...well-crafted songs performed with a soft-rock touch and presented with unsurpassable attention to detail. There isn't much room for spontaneity, and even Neil Diamond talks to the crowd his personality is elusive. But the singer and his songs have been around for many July and August nights, and he and they showed why the heat wave still isn't over.
Sent in by Anthony Britch
NEIL DIAMOND, July 27, GM Place
Buffed, waxed and polished, Neil Diamond's show at the Garage out-shone even the swankiest line of GM product on the showroom mezzanine Saturday night. Gently revving his engine with a parade of his smash hits, Diamond pulled out of the starting gate with all the finesse and expertise you'd expect from this road veteran.
"Cherry, Cherry", "September Morn", and "Beautiful Noise" fused into one warm and gooey greeting to the capacity crowd of 18, 500 who met the musical hug with big, happy, open arms.
Very rarely does a Vancouver audience respond with such immediate abandon. But that's Diamond's gift: he has so familiar tunes in his huge repertoire of chart topping singles that he'll pull you into the passenger seat in the first few minutes. Almost every one of his tunes stands out in bold type on the fading page of memory, prompting unconscious flights of nostalgia and warm, fuzzy feelings about pop from the golden era of 70's schmaltz.
Afterall, "Song Sung Blue" may very well be one of the most irritating songs ever written, with it's repeated chorus, insipid melody, banal lyrics and tail-wagging tempo, but so what? Y'all know the words and when 18, 500 voices are singing along next to you, well, why hold back?
Trying to maintain a cool, personal distance at a Neil Diamond show is like sitting quietly on the sidelines at a karaoke session concerned about your image. You could, but what's the point?
And so for the 90 plus minutes Diamond spun around on his rotating stage, glinting beneath the spotlight in his sparkling plaid shirt and grey silk trousers, he was a man of - and for - the people. Mostly older people, mind you, but fans of what Diamond embodies all the same. When he sang his everyman anthem, "Forever in Blue Jeans", Diamond looked around and said: "That was good , but there's only one problem: in a crowd of 18, 000 four people were'nt standing ... so let's try again, shall we."
Humble, humorous and still able to do his JAZZ SINGER twist and shimmy into his 50's, Diamond's magic is indelible. The songs he played off his new record, TENNESSEE MOON, may not have been on everyone's fave list. But whether it was a solid-gold number or a new crooner, Diamond knew just the right way to deliver the message: a little intro story, a brief quip about how he wrote the tune and then a rousing orchestral sweep of saccharin to wash it all down.
Miraculously, he sounded sincere. And he probably was. Diamond made his name compressing the woes of our carbon-based lifeforms into shiny, tiny nuggets of indestructible rock: You don't bring me flowers any more...Love on the rocks...Good times never seemed so good. Hardly revolutionary, let alone poetic. But it hits home.
Imagine the sight of 18, 500 people beaming in their seats, waving their arms in unison and singing along to a tune like "America" or "I Am...I Said". They lit up the arena brighter than his fancy laser footlights.
No pretence or posture - people were there for the music and the man behind it all: the smoky baritone from Brooklyn with the moves, grooves and boogie of a showman.
Diamond may be part cubic zirconium, but he sure can shine all the same.
Sent in by Anthony Britch
Neil Diamond just arrived in Fargo, ND. Mentally, he's ready to leave the surreal flatlands made famous by Joel and Ethan Coen in their bizarre film of the same name. Diamond says he's emerging from a whirlwind of emotions after his 25-year marriage came to an end last year. And being on the road, where places like Fargo wash in and out of the tour bus windows, has been one of the best forms of therapy for Diamond.
"I'm addicted to the adrenaline high of being out there and making music," says Diamond in his slow, earthy tones. It seems to be a mutual addiction for both the performer and the fan: the Brooklyn born American dreamer is king of the road, scoring record breaking box office totals around the world.
No mystery: the man who wrote such decade-defining anthems as Sweet caroline, Cracklin' Rosie, I'm a Believer, Song Sung Blue, You Got To Me and Cherry Cherry has sold more than 100 million records worldwide, making him one of the most successful pop stars of all time. His latest project, a country-twanger called Tennessee Moon, hit the U.S. country and western charts at No. 3 and is still a steady seller-although no longer in the top 200-featuring such Opry fixtures as Waylon Jennings, Chet Atkins and Hal Ketchum.
Diamond will be bringing his big-scale, hit-laden show to Vancouver's GM Place this Saturday. But for all the miles Diamond has logged over the last 30 years, beginning his recording career in 1966 with The Feel Of Neil Diamond, he still gets the jitters before taking the stage.
"My confidence is really all a matter of smoke and mirrors. I'm as confident as anyone would be when you're staring at 18, 000 people who expect to be entertained. I have to face it every night, and still, I have a fear of not living up to it." he says with a 55-year -old, matter-of-fact conviction.
"but when i'm at home ,I have my priorities in order, I have four children whom I love dearly. And they love me - that gives me all the perspective I need...because life is really all about being grateful and seeing and seeing the value of the people around you. I really only learned that after my first child was born," says Diamond, who still identifies with his working class background.
"Brooklyn wasn't a nice place to grow up. You had to adopt a very defensive posture to survive. I came from a lower-middle-income family - we lived above the butcher shop and the house was full of mice...every summer all I could think of were ways to get out."
One of the ways Diamond managed to find solace amidst swltering heat and rodent colonies was by writing away to tourist bureaus around North America. "One of my favourite places, and i am dying to see, is Saskatchewn. To me, it seems like God's country. Something about the name, it sounded very romantic to a 12-year old boy in Brooklyn."
While Diamond dreamed of creamy beige wheat fields, he focused his pragmatic exit from Brooklyn on his studies. He wanted to be a doctor. But he was distracted by his developing talent for writing songs. At 17, he penned his first complete song, for a girl who would later become his first wife. "Writing felt like a neat trick. I didn't take it too seriously because it kind of just happened. But now I find myself trying to understand the process a little bit more because I think it's a connection to something larger than yourself - and I think it's beauty because it evolves into a spiritual stream of consciousness. It allows you to open up and catch a glimpse of who you are - both your dreams and your innermost fears."
NEIL DIAMOND PLAYS GM PLACE SATURDAY NIGHT, JULY 27TH.
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