It was over four years since he last played Vancouver and the whole town waited in anticipation. The sticky two week heatwave that enveloped our city did not deter the thousands of fans from packing GM Place, known to the locals as the "Garage". It is reportedly the finest stadium of its kind in North America.
As the people finally took their seats, the lights dimmed and the nine musicians ran up the steps and took their post on the huge rotating stage. As a musical medley was being played,the audience was treated to a dazzling laser show, with the beams lighting up the stage and dancing into the stands and up to the ceiling. The band ripped into a fast, syncopathing rythm and suddenly he was there,running to the mike clad in black silk pants and a black shirt that glittered as if sprinkled with a million diamonds.As Neil got into the rocking "Crunchy Granola Suite" followed by the disco beat-themed "Desiree", we were suddenly on a magic carpet ride,going back in time five,fifteen, even twenty years.
"Hello Vancouver, we love you and we've missed you." With that he got into "Hello Again" and the cheers were deafening. After that song he said "I hope you wont mind but we'd like to do some oldies for you now." We all screamed back in appreciation because thats what we were there for. He immediately launched into his first big hit back in the 60's "Solitary Man", followed by "Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon." That unmistakable baritone voice has deepened, but just as fine wine, will only get better with age.
I thought the roof would cave in during "Cherry, Cherry" as people of all ages were on their feet,clapping,singing along, and dancing in the aisles.We were all young and alive again, making "Beautiful Noise" together. Women of all ages swooned,cried,and held each other through the touching ballads "September Morn" and "Play Me." Without missing a beat, Neil rocked into his new country version of "Kentucky Woman", which was a fitting introduction to some songs from his new album "Tennessee Moon."
Neil paced around the stage scanning the audience on "Can Anybody Hear Me?", continued the country set with "One Good Love"(minus Waylon) and had three musicians joining him for the acoustical "No Limit". He then did the ballad "Everybody" needs someone and told the audience it was cowritten with his son Jesse.
Of his final Tennessee Moon song, he informed us that "Songwriters are a strange breed. When they are happy they write sad songs, when they are sad they write happy songs. When they are married they write divorce songs, and when they are divorced they write married songs. I'd like to sing you a married song." He then did "Marry Me" and every female hand was reaching out to him.
"Forever In Blue Jeans" had the close to twenty thousand strong crowd stomping, clapping and having a rollicking good time. He jokingly said that "I saw four people sitting down and you know what that means? We'll have to do it again!" and the croud went wild at the reprise. Neil then took a breather and introduced the members of his talented band, and each member demonstrated a solo.
After it was "Last Picasso" and the huge singalong hit "Song Sung Blue" during which the entire stadium was bathed in a soft blue light. The lasers and lights flew everywhere during the exotic "Soolaimon". The Jazz Singer made everyone feel mellow during "Love On The Rocks", and then we were rockin' to the uptempo "Shilo". The tender "You Dont Bring Me Flowers" was highlited by the hauntingly beautiful voice of Linda Press, subbing for Barbra Streisand.
Then Neil once again proved his superstar status with "Holly Holy," "I Am I Said", and the patriotic anthem "America" during which huge U.S. and Canadian flags were slowly suspended from the ceiling.
After close than 2 1/2 hours the show came to an end and still we cried out for more.Without showing any signs of tiring, Neil happily obliged us with an encore of "Cracklin'Rosie", "Sweet Caroline" and the gospel-like "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show", during which he preached "The Lord doesent care if your rich or poor, black or white,gay or straight because we're all His children! "The feeling of being there and everybody being as one was incredible,and after Neil left the stage,I saw him wiping tears from his eyes as he was visibly moved by such a wonderful, warm Vancouver response.
As we were all leaving, I still heard many people humming the songs that were close to their heart. We were back to reality and we were thankful that there was as giving a performer as Neil Diamond who proved to us that showmanship and entertainment are not dead.As it remains in the mind and soul of the true Diamond fan,one line sums it all up - "Good Times Never Feel So Good.."
Chronological order of songs performed at GM Place:
Laser show and musical intro.
1.) Crunchy Granola Suite.
3.) Hello Again.
4.) Solitary Man.
5.) Girl,You'll Be A Woman Soon.
7.) Beautiful Noise.
8.) September Morn.
10) Kentucky Woman.
11) Can Anybody Hear Me.
12) One Good Love.
13) No Limit.
15) Marry Me.
16) Forever In Blue Jeans.
17) Last Picasso.
18) Song Sung Blue.
20) Love On The Rocks.
22) You Dont Bring Me Flowers.
23) Holly Holy.
24) I Am, I Said.
26) Cracklin' Rosie.
27) Sweet Caroline.
28) Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show.
NEIL DIAMOND IN CONCERT
Date: July 27, 1996 8pm
City: Vancouver, BC. Canada
Venue: General Motors Place
Attendance: 18, 500 approx.
Vancouver, the gateway to the Pacific, has been locked in a heatwave the last couple of weeks. Well, last night the heat was turned up a few degrees by Neil Diamond, in a sold out two hour and fifteen minute performance at Vancouver's GM Place.
Diamond, making the only Canadian stop on his current World Tour, came to town to promote his first album of original material in five years, Tennessee Moon.
From the opening fanfare of "I'm Alive" and the first two numbers, "Crunchy Granola Suite" and "Desiree" the enthusiastic crowd was awash with anticipation. It was when Diamond announced that he was "gonna reach back and do a few oldies" that the audience, young and old alike, started swaying, clapping and dancing in the aisles.
This first section of the performance was marred by a few sound problems, but these were corrected quickly, and the vibrant chords of "Cherry, Cherry" and the soft licks of "Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon" came through loud and clear.
It is a credit to Diamond that he sings his past hits with the same passion as he did when they were first written, some over 25 years ago. So it isn't surprising that the performances of his new material yields a passionate man singing to perfection. He gives one hundred percent to every song, and make no mistake, every song is a performance.
Diamond's new album has sold moderately well, but not enough to crack the nation's Top Ten lists. The fans last night didn't care! They swooned to "Marry Me" and "One Good Love" just as they had to "September Morn" and "Play Me".
Of the new songs presented, "Can Anybody Hear Me", a great in concert audience response tune, and "Everybody", co-written with his son, Jesse Diamond, received the most applause. I'm sure Diamond sold a few thousand more copies of the album last night.
Diamond is renowned for taking no intermission in his performances. But, his age, 55, must be creeping in on him for he took a 15 minute singing break by introducing each member of his outstanding band individually, to the melody of "The Last Picasso."
After the band took centre stage, Diamond just kept rolling out the hits. The wildly appreciative audience took to their feet, and remained there, through "Song Sung Blue", "Soolaimon" and "Shilo".
After subdueing the crowd with wonderfully detailed performances of "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" and "I Am...I Said" he closed with a rousing version of his anthem "America".
Fortunately, the audience wasn't going to let Diamond escape the stage without an encore. He then turned all his talents into one big explosion with three of his biggest hits, "Cracklin' Rosie", "Sweet Caroline" and "Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show".
If last nights' concert was any indication of what kind of energy Neil Diamond has left after over 30 years in the music business, we'll be seeing him on stage with his Everly Brothers guitar in another 20 years. I hope so.
July 28, 1996