His songs, which have been sold around the world on 110 million records, remain amazingly familiar. And his nappy baritone--rather like the vocal equivalent of shag carpeting, come to think of it--seems largely untrampled by time.
"He never changes. He's always great," said Vicki Byrd of Andover, who was seeing the star for the third time.
"I think he's wonderful," agreed her companion, Veronica Wilson of Wichita.
After an introduction involving laser-light diamonds that exploded, then morphed into seagulls, the 55-year-old crowd-pleaser arrived at the center of his turntable stage, the metal thread in his yellow and black plaid open-necked shirt shining in the myraid spotlights.
His graying hair and sideburns still sculpted according to '70s style, his face bunching up with emotion, Diamond seemed to withdraw the sentiment of each song directly from his heart (maybe it has something to do with that "heartlight" thing he sings about).
He slung the guitar 'round his neck for "Solitary Man," the 1966 hit written for Bobby Darin. He slid into "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," which his nine-piece orchestra augmented with steel drums. Turning back to 1976, he sang "Beautiful Noise," the title of which was suggested by his then-10-year-old daughter.
He invited everybody to dance at one point, taunting them with "Do you have the nerve? Let's see."
The lure was "Cherry, Cherry," the 30-year-old tune with which he gave the world the immortal line, "She got the way to move me, Cherry."
There were also several songs from his 1996 album, "Tennessee Moon," including a wistful ballad titled "Everybody," which Diamond penned with his son, Jesse.
Because of the revolving stage, the crowd--dominated by women (some of whom were abuzz with talk of his recent divorce)--spent much of the night watching Diamond's hips sway back and forth from the back (they were clad not in blue jeans but in beautifully tailored black, although the crowd heard "Forever in Blue Jeans" not once but twice). It may have been "Play Me" that set off the swooning most audibly--he treated it like an oh-so-slow waltz, patting his chest on the title words.
Caryl and Rae Hess of Wichita brought their 7-year-old daughter and 9-year-old son, having turned them into fans with tapes played in the car (both Young Vicki and Shann like his "Love Potion No. 9" best).
"This is my man," said Linda Lucas, one of a number of nurses from Via Christi-St. Joseph attending the concert together. "Tennessee Moon" has been constant in my car on the way to and from work."
(Submitted by Bev Lawrence)