"I've played this place about 30 times, and it's beginning to feel like home to me," said singer Neil Diamond at USAir Arena Tuesday night. Judging by the sellout crowd's response, he may be invited back another 30 times.
The 55-year-old pop star made the remark after trotting across the arena floor amid the audience's outstretched hands and clinbing onto a revolving stage. Preceded by a brief laser-light show, it was a dramatic, thoroughly crowd-pleasing entrance and a clear example of why Diamond has been able to draw huge concert crowds throughout most of his career, with or without the help of a hit song or album.
The appeal of Diamond's music however, wasn't always so obvious. Backed by his longtime nine-piece band, he was in fine form when reprising his early hits, such as "Cherry, Cherry" and the encore version of "Cracklin' Rosie," or when energetically conducting sing-alongs of "Song Sung Blue" and other simple catchy tunes.
A couple of songs from Diamond's new, countrified album, "Tennessee Moon," also ranked among the highlights. They produced some refreshingly intimate moments, thanks to a pared-down trip setting that briefly featured former Elvis Presley drummer Ron Tutt on brushes and snare. Still, showmanship is Diamond's forte, not subtelty. He doesn't phrase a lyric so much as declaim it, adding theatrical fourish on top of theatrical flourish. As a result, several ballads, including "Love on the Rocks," "I Am...ISaid" and the new "In my Lifetime," came across as songs sung huge--overwrought and unmoving."