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Pre-1972 Tour Info


Concert Reviews

Neil Diamond Gives Moving Performance
(? re: Chapman College Benefit concert 3/22/70)
by Marilyn Graham

The Cystic Fibrosis Foundation billed Neil Diamond for its charity program at Chapman College, and no one else. It was a surprise of the night of the concert to see a slick KRLA disc jockey (Johnnie Darin) jump out and introduce comedian Albert Brooks. I found it hard to believe I was not attending a high school assembly.

When Neil Diamond appeared on stage, he swiftly changed the atmosphere. Wearing tight black pants and body shirt (his back-up guitarists were dressed more flamboyantly than he was), Neil Diamond was the unmistakable attraction. His movements were lithe and electric, his voice at the peaks of excitement, almost a gravelly scream. At times he turned profile and clapped his hands above his head, resembling a flamenco dancer. Diamond looks and talks Brooklyn, not Hollywood. He gives something most ‘superstars of the seventies’ are not willing to give to a ‘bubble-gum’ public.

The lyrics to his big hit, ‘Cherry Cherry,’ are not as important as the pounding beat of the piano (missing in this concert) and the song’s controlled frenzy. The lyrics in ‘Solitary Man’ and ‘Two-Bit Manchild’ are reminiscent of growing up and trying to find something, but the frustration comes across vocally rather than lyrically.

He sang recent hits, ‘Kentucky Woman,’ ‘Holly Holy,’ and ‘Sweet Caroline’ complacently well. About Joni Mitchell’s {‘Both Sides Now’} he said, ‘‘It’s overdone, but we’ll overdo it a little bit more,’’ not in the soft style of Joni Mitchell or Judy Collins, but in his own style. The climax of the show came with ‘Brother Loves Travelling Salvation Show’...(sorry, can’t read rest of review)

Diamond Concert
publication unknown, Britain, 5/20/70
by Neville Nisse

Neil Diamond has already built up quite a reputation here as a pop singer of exceptional ability. That despite the fact that until now we’ve no had a chance to see him. Ths weekend he makes his British debut-with two concerts tomorrow night at the Royal Festival Hall.

For a long time this 27-year old American singer-composer has been a big-name star in his native country, someone with a whole string of self-composed hits...However, the only impact he seemed to make here for quite some time-despite getting most enthusiastic things said about his work by DJs and record reviewers-was for his song-writing success for other artists, as with ‘I’m a Believer’ for the Monkees and ‘The Boat That I Row’ for Lulu.

But suddenly, about a year ago, the British public seemed to discover him, and since then Neil has enjoyed impressive sales with ‘Soolaimon,’ Holly Holy,’ ‘Cracklin Rosie,’ and his latest LP, a superb album, titled ‘Tap Root Manuscript’....

He bought his first guitar for $16. And almost on the day he mastered his first chord progression he was writing his first song, one called ‘Hear Them Bells.’ From then he proceeded to write songs at a quite fantastic rate. As he put it: ‘‘I found being able to do that, express myself in that way, was a whole new thing for me and opened me up as a person. In fact I’m constantly amazed that I’m able to write a song-to just take a piece of paper and at the end of a day or two, a week or a month, have a song on it You see, I never really considered myself creative.’’

But he certainly is-as his output has shown. As for what he plays, it is made up of a good mixture of many things. Says Neil: ‘‘That’s not surprising, I seem to have been exposed to just about every kind of music, from rock’n’roll to gospel, rhythm’n’blues to country’n’western, the ‘classics’ to the top twenty. So I guess I’ve developed a taste for all of them.’

But in his songs and performance he shows a particular brand of originality-one that should continue, because he vows: ‘‘I want to try and avoid going down the same roads, doing the same thing again.’’ Take my advice, Neil Diamond’s career is going to be one worth following.

Concert Review, Neil Diamond, Anaheim Convention Center
The Hollywood Reporter, September 30, 1970
by Sue Cameron

Neil Diamond recieved a standing ovation from 9000 fans at the full-to-the-brim Anaheim Convention Center Saturday night. It was spontaneous and deserved. Diamond is a great artist and a dynamic and warm performer.

In a smaller room, such as the Troubadour, Diamond’s every body move and nuance make the room come alive. He’s not a mover in that tasteless, blatant sex symbol trick-he has taste. In a big concert it is difficult to achieve a rapport with a crowd and make each member of the audience feel as if you are singing to him, {but} Diamond does. The moves can’t be seen as well, but he talks to the audience between numbers as if it is a living room conversation. Some of the set patter should go, such as the comments about girls’ hair in pin curls, that is dated and superfluous. But when he tells you stories behind the songs, something magical happens.

A big audience-warmer is Diamond’s request to all theaudience members who have flash cameras to flash them at the same time on the count of three. It is a good gimmick. Diamond sings all his hits, and ‘Holly Holy’ really came off exceptionally well. He switched to a stool and a single spot and put down his guitar to sing the beautiful ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.’ His autobiographical ‘Brooklyn Roads’ was also nice , and the closer ‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show’ included a sermon by Diamond that left the crowd cheering.

Diamond flawless at the Greek
The Hollywood Reporter, August 25, 1971
by Sue Cameron

When we saw Neil Diamond last year at Anaheim he was flawless. At his Greek Theatre opening he was 1,000% better than flawless and that should tell you how brilliant he was. Everything was perfect. The stage had a special set by Jim Newton. Diamond had 35 strings and a vocal group behind him that was incredible....

But the reasong for the success is all Diamond. Take away the strings and the voices and just sit him on a stool with his guitar and the strength and excitement is still there. It’s Neil Diamond’s attitude on stage, an inner feeling of intensity that comes across to the audience like a laser beam.

He did 16 songs and took time with each. It wasn’t a case of running one’s hits. Each song he did, whether it was a familiar hit or new to his act, like Chelsea Morning, was treated like a well-polished special jewell both lyrically and musically. The arrangements for each song, done by Neil and his conuctor Lee Holdrige, were magnificent.

Diamond showed many sides of his personality Monday night. He spoofed some of his ‘dumb’ songs written during his starving songwriting days in New York. He told us about his childhood in Brooklyn Roads. He told us about today with I Am...I Said. He knew just how to treat each song, when to be soft, when to be exciting. Watching Neil Dimaond work is like watching the parts of a $5,000 watch work. That is not to say he is mechanical or antiseptic. On the contrary-he is a pro, a showman, and he gave his all to the audience. By the end of his encore, Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, he had earned two standing ovations and proven byeond a doubt that he is and will continue to be one of the biggest artists in the business.

Diamond in Debut at Greek
The Los Angeles Times, August 25, 1971
by Robert Hilburn

It was obvious from the opening minutes of his concert Monday night that Neil Diamond is after more than just applause in his debut engagement this week at the Greek Theater.

It would have been easy and quite safe for Diamond, the top-selling artist over the past two years, to merely have come out Monday and done a slightly longer, but essentially carbon version of the highly successful concert he did last September at the Anaheim Convention Center.

By running through his biggest hits (from ‘Cracklin Rosie’ to ‘Sweet Caroline’) with a small country-rock band as he did at Anaheim, Diamond no doubt would have pleased almost everyone Monday at the Greek. Almost everyone, that is, except himself.

The important thing to realize about Diamond at the moment is that he is interested in exploring his potential as both a performer and writer. He is concerned with artistic growth. Thus, he is interested in winning respect as well as applause.

As soon as the curtain opened, there was no mistaking Diamond’s intention. The stage was filled with an eight-piece rhythm section, six background singers and a 35-piece string section. After some introductory strains from the ‘African Trilogy’ on his ‘Tap Root Manuscript’ album, Diamond joined the musicians on stage and began a spirited version of ‘Soolaimon,’ the most familiar song from the trilogy. It was a daring, ambitious, effective start.

Through most of the rest of the material Monday was familiar, there was a constant feel of artistic challenge about Diamond’s performance. He changed the arrangements of some numbers, restructured his phrasing on others, mixed the sequence of songs (between his early, essentially bubble-gum material and his more serious, autobiographical material) so that the audience could never fall into the comfortable, but unstimulating poition of being able to predict what was going to happen next.

Except for Joni Mitchell’s ‘Chelsea Morning’ and Bobby Russell-Bobby Scott’s ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother,’ all Diamond’s selections were his own. They included ‘Done Too Soon,’ ‘Cracklin Rosie,’ ‘Holly Holy,’ ‘Brooklyn Roads’ and ‘I Am...I Said.’

There were, to be sure, some growth pains. The show’s pace seemed to slow too much when Diamond tried to point out the humor in some of the early, unpublished material he wrote. In his effort to bring new interpretations to his songs (as drawing out the word ‘be’ for no apparent reasong in the line ‘guess I’ll always be what I am’ in ‘Solitary Man’), he seemed at times to be taking away from the free flowing spirit of the song.

But the distractions were minor. By the time Diamond got to the closing ‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show’ (the third encore), he had much of the Greek Theater audience clapping in time with the song’s irresistible gospel-rock rhythm. He recieved one of the most spirited standing ovations of the Greek season at the end of the show.

By refusing to stand still musically, Diamond won the best of both possible worlds Monday night. He won both the applause and respect of his audience,. His show ranks with last week’s Carole King program as one of the highlights of the Greek season. A major triumph.

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1972 (Moods)

Tour Highlights

Performance Notes: By early summer, Neil had changed his set list to reflect the release of his new album, Moods and had replaced Soolaimon with Crunchy Granola Suite as the shows opening number. Each night he would perform a few songs from the new album, the highlights of which were often cuts such as Porcupine Pie and Gitchy Goomy, in addition to the more expected ‘hits’ from the album. At this point in the early 70’s, it was common for artists to perform much shorter shows than are expected from today’s hitmakers, and many folks who were lucky enough to have seen Neil in those early days have told me that these shows often clocked in at approximately one hour and fifteen minutes ( a far cry from today’s 2 1/2 hr shows). Sources tell me that this did change for the landmark shows at the Greek Theater. Performing at the Greek, Neil put on a much longer show, and was able to delight his fans by playing a few of his most heartfelt ballads such as And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind, and A Modern Day Version of Love. After his legendary 20 show stand on Broadway at the Winter Garden, Neil began what was to become a 4 year sabbatical from touring.

Concert Reviews

Neil Diamond: girl’s best friend at Arie Crown
Chicago Daily News, Monday, July 17, 1972
by Jack Hafferkamp

Neil Diamond is a strange cat. He looks like the missing link between Elvis Presley and James Taylor-greasy, but sensitive. And despite their pretentions of poetry, his songs (like ‘Soliatry Man’ and ‘Holly Holy’) often succeed in conveying a genuine human warmth...

His voice, too, is peculiar. He sings like a newly awakened man with a head cold. But I think I like him most because he is pigeon-toed.

I was thinking all these things this Friday (during the first of Diamond’s five sold-out weekend shows at the Arie Crown Theater) mostly because Diamond is very good at making himself human to audiences. He actually talks with his audience, and at one point, he even invited people to shout out requests.

Perhaps Diamond was especially loose for these shows because they will be his last in Chicago for some time. He announced that he and his band plan to ‘‘take a sabbatical from performing for a year or two,’’ and that, as a farewell, his group would play the songs they like most.

So the program included many of Diamond’s most popular songs, the current hit ‘Song Sung Blue,’ ‘Sweet Caroline,’ Stones,’ ‘Kentucky Woman,’ and ‘I Am...I Said’ plus three tunes by other writers, Randy Newman’s ‘I Think Its Going to Rain Today,’ Tom Paxton’s ‘Last Thing on My Mind,’ and Leonard Cohen’s ‘Suzanne,’ as well as some obscure Diamond ditties like ‘I’m Black and Blue From Kickin Myself for Givin You Up to Somebody Else.’...

Much of the credit for Diamond’s success must to his excellent band: Emory Gordy (on guitar and vibes), Dennis St. John (on the largest, most garish drum set I’ve ever seen), Alan Lindgren (on keyboards), Richard Bennett (on various guitars), Reinie Press (on bass), Dan Nicholson (on guitar and backing vocals), and Jefferson Kewley (on percussion).

All in all, Diamond’s shows was quite enjoyable--nothing heavy or far out, or new, but very refreshing. Still, five sell-out crowds is a lot of people, and I was somewhat at a loss to understand his 20,000-seat appeal until I realized that the audience was four-fifths young women. One girl perfectly summed up Diamond’s attraction, ‘‘He’s sexy,’’ she said, ‘‘ and cuddly, and gorgeous, and so lost...’’

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1976 (Beautiful Noise)

Tour Highlights

Performance Notes: Neil’s shows in January and February of 1976 were his first performances in nearly four years, and the opening song, Missa/Soolaimon was reminiscent of his early 70’s shows. In these early days, his shows emphasised the two major projects in which Neil had been involved during those intervening years: the Jonathan Livingston Seagull soundtrack and his 1974 album Serenade, which has stood the test of time as Neil’s best album ever. Coming near the end of his performance, the 20-minute ‘Jonathan’ segment became a fixture of Diamond’s live shows for over ten years. In addition to the three songs from Serenade which were later featured on Love at the Greek I have heard that Neil was known to feature the song Rosemary’s Wine during which he would invite the audience to take as many pictures as they would like, while asking that in return they would put away their cameras for the rest of the show (no word on if the audiences were known to uphold their end of the bargain, but knowing human nature, I suspect not). Of course, all his old favorites such as Cherry Cherry, Sweet Caroline, and I Am...I Said were performed as well.

For the most part, Neil was not yet performing songs from his upcoming album, Beautiful Noise as the album was not to be released before late spring. After coming back from Australia, Neil finished up the mixing work on the album, and also signed a deal to open the brand new Alladin Thearter in Las Vegas during the month of July. By the time his tour began rolling again in late spring, Neil had begun to occassionally add some songs from Beautiful Noise to the show, notably the title track and Home is a Wounded Heart among others.

Undoubtedly, Diamond’s crowning achievement in 1976 was his spectacular engagement at Los Angeles’ Greek Theater. Neil often mentions his wish to do something ‘special’ when he comes to the Greek Theater, and these shows were no exception, as Neil rolled out a show which was significantly improved over (his already brilliant) shows earlier in the year. Opening the shows with Streetlife and Beautiful Noise, Neil went on to feature more than half of the cuts from his critically acclaimed autobiographical album Beautiful Noise while undoubtedly perfoming all the crowds favorite ‘oldies’ as well. Without question, this engagement showed Neil Diamond at the peak of his performing career as documented on his next live album, the aforementioned Love at the Greek.

Concert Reviews

Diamond Shines At the Center
The Sacramento Union, February 1, 1976
by Steve Connell

Even diamonds become tarnished when shelved, but their aura of brilliance keeps shining-or at least to some extent. Neil Diamond, for the past three years a stranger to the concert circiut, is opening a 1976 world tour this weekend at the Sacramento Community Center Theater...

...the beauty of the 2436-seat theater packed the past two nights and sold out 54 days in advance for tonight’s performance was a selling point. But in opening in Sacramento, Diamond made a wise choice. Had he opened in say, New York City with a show like the one he put on here Friday night, the influential critics there would very likely have canned him.

Neil Diamond was rusty Friday night. True, this was to be expected, and he did loosen up eventually to drive the packed throng wild with approval. But it seems most in attendance would have liked him no matter what he did. Verily, the people came to see Diamond. And boy did they come.

Scalped tickets were bringing up to $70. People were calling from all over the state-even other states-pleading for tickets. And most of those who were able to secure the ducats were not dissapointed-despite Diamond’s slow start.

Neil was seemingly tense the first few songs. He forgot a verse of his fourth tune, ‘‘Kentucky Woman,’’ and his voice was sometimes cracking, straining to reach notes he couldn’t hit. He was at times visibly displeased with himself. But the somber ‘‘Solitary Man’’ and nostalgic versions of ‘‘Cherry Cherry,’’ ‘‘Sweet Caroline,’’ and ‘‘Play Me’’ seemed to loosen both Diamond and the by now standing crowd.

Diamond a sleek, rhinestoned figure-very much a ladies’ man-was by now joking, strutting, signing autographs for two women hoisted upon the stage and even getting political, quipping ‘‘He (Governor Brown) would have been here tonight but he just coldn’t find a date.’’ This was Diamond nearing his greatness-charismatic, humorous.

Ensuing renditions of ‘‘Beautiful Noise,’’ (a tasteful mellow preview of his soon to be released LP) ‘‘Longfellow Serenade,’’ ‘‘Song Sung Blue,’’ and a dynamic ‘‘Holly Holy’’ were progressively better.

And spicing all those arrangements was a very good band of seven-most notably Jamaican percussion whiz King Errisson. Errisson was a crowd favorite, a veritable dynamo as he hyperactively moved between five (count ‘em) congo and various other assorted percussion instruments including timbales, maracas, gongs, cowbell-you name it, he played it.

In all, Friday’s perfromance lasted two hours, spanned twenty tunes. But Diamond’s sometimes raspy voice lacked the punch of old, his mixing was sometimes poor, and the final 10 minutes of mellow, lesser-known material seemed to drag. Yet, somehow, by the end, Neil was much more at ease, apparently unshaken by a fallen spotlight cover which narrowly missed him and visibly moved by the crowd’s wild cheers.

It’s been a long time since Diamond has enjoyed that feeling. And given two more months, maybe less, on his tour (which heads next to Utah and then to Australia) I would like to see him again. I’m sure that by then Neil will be much more polished, the performance much more enjoyable, for Neil Diamond IS a bona fide star.

Melodies of Neil Diamond Still Popular After Hiatus
The New York Times Ausgust 14, 1976
by John Rockwell

Neil Diamond began a three-night sold-out stand at the Forest Hills Stadium in Queens on Friday. In so doing, he not only reopened the 14400-seat open-air-facility at the West Side Tennis Club for pop concerts after a five-year hiatus but he also was returning to the city of his birth for his first concert here since October 21, 1972.

That date was the last of his 20-show run at the Winter Garden Theatre on Broadway. Thereafter he retired from public perfomance, although he continued to make records. The Forest Hills concerts come halfway through a 1976 tour, and at a time when his latest record, ‘‘Beautiful Noise,’’ is near the top of the sales charts. It might seem odd for a singer still in his mid 30’s to ‘‘retire,’’ but more and more pop performers these days feel the need to pursue their private lives and to recharge their creative batteries.

The ‘‘new’’ Diamond that has emerged this year seems to have evolved smoothly from the 1972 model. Mr. Diamond, for all the blues-based energy of some of his music, had never fully accepted the asumptions of rock-and-roll. Instead, he reached back to the slick punkdom of the late 1950’s Elvis Presley and further back still to the pop craftsmen of Tin Pan Alley.

Now, just as Elvis has become the ultimate Las Vegas entertainer, so too has Mr. Diamond made his links to mid-American, middlebrow adult pop all the more overt. Next to the very best popular music of the last 15 years, he sounds rhetorical, calculated and slick. But within a more proper evaluative context-compared, say, to Tom Jones-he remains a vital, pleasing performer, one who domesticates the energy of rock for older audiences without fully betraying that energy.

His musical virtues are considerable, above all his rich, easily produced bass-baritone, smooth enough for ballads yet rough enough to suggest a personable sexiness. His band and arrangements were likewise attractive Friday (even though the synthsizer tended to cut through the textures abrasively toward the end of the two-hour show). And his stage manner, too, was generally friendly, despite an occasional tendency to chatter on and to bask nervously in self-congratulation.

But for all his gifts as a performer, it is Mr. Diamond’s songs that are the center of his act, and it is his ability to write them that immediately lifts him above the category of simple performer. Mr. Diamond’s material is full of talent; at his best he cruises through songs like a limousine in overdrive, grand and expensive. But for this taste it is still too unabashedly pop to provide more than a faint passing pleasure. The lyricas lapse too comfortably into the slick or, worse, the hollowly rhetorical. The music, while usually catchy, rarely reaches below a neatly crafted surface to engage the deepest emotions. And surely Mr. Diamond’s decision to place a 20-minute medley from his soundtrack to the ‘‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’’ film right near the end represented a miscalculation: Popular it may have been, but it shows him at his most nakedly bombastic.

But as ever when one considers a popular artist, popularity is in at leas some sense its own reward. Mr. Diamond unquestionably pleases his fans, and perhaps that’s quite enough. One wonders, though, if it’s enough for him.

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April 1977-January 1978 (I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight)

Tour Highlights

Performance Notes: After a few US warm-up dates in the spring of 1977, Neil and his band went overseas for their first European tour in over five years, culminating in the historic concert at England’s Woburn Abbey. These shows featured the usual list of Diamond classics, loosely based on the set list which took him through his immensely successful 1976 tour, including the incredibly moving final song, I’ve Been This Way Before. I have also been told that highlights of these shows included the novel song Reggae Strut as well as a radically reworked version of You Got to Me. A brand new Diamond tune, Dance of the Sabres was chosen to kick off the show.

Initially, Neil had planned to begin working on a film during this tour, with a concept which was loosely to document the life of a performer-Diamond, in the 1960’s. For the tour, Neil had worked up his own interpretation of a great Joni Mitchell song, Free Man in Paris which Neil performed during this period and which was also the title of the proposed film. Although the film was never acutally made, much of the footage shot for it (as well as concert footage from Woburn Abbey) did appear in his 1977 TV special, I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight, which aired in November. After returning to the states, Diamond kicked off a US tour which was to last through January of 1978. These shows were similar to those which Neil had put on in Europe, although they were to include a number of other songs from his new album I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight including his big hit Desiree, and the title track.

Concert Reviews

Diamond ‘brilliant’ Wednesday
The Tulsa Tribune, July 14, 1977
by Ellis Widner

Neil Diamond gave a near capacity audience at Oral Robert University’s Mabee Center a brilliant performance that held the crowd spellbound Wednesday evening. Diamond is a gifted and generous performer who fives a great deal of himself to the audience, making the Mabee Center feel like a small, intimate hall.

His magnetic stage presence and warm manner makes his show a highly entertaining experience. With Diamond it is more than singing his latest hit or previous ones. He shares himself.

Neil Diamond’s band is also spectacular. With keyboards, synthesizers, percussion instruments, guitars, congas, etc., the group gives Diamond’s material a full, orchestral shroud that can be appropriately tender, lush, or driving.

Through his tunes and stage talk, Diamond weaves his life story. His songs are largely autobiographical. His personality blends and unites the songs into a powerful, moving musical statement. He performed some old ones-‘‘Solitary Man,’’ ‘‘Sweet Caroline,’’ ‘‘Cracklin’ Rosie’’-and some new ones-‘‘God Only Knows’’ ‘‘Desiree,’’ ‘‘Let Me Take You in My Arms.’’ Both types of songs shared one thing in common-they work much better in the concert setting than on a recording. It is to Diamond’s credit that his best work is usually his live work.

Some of the highlights included a powerful, moving ‘‘I Am...I Said,’’ ‘‘Song Sung Blue’’ (which got the audience on its feet to clap, sing and sway along). ‘‘Beautiful Noise’’ (complete with the street sounds) and his encore, ‘‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show.’’

When Diamond returned for another encore, ‘‘I’ve Been This Way Before’’ he sang ‘‘I’ll be this way again’’ and the crowd roared its approval of the idea. Lets hope it won’t be five years before he returns to Tulsa again. It was a great show.

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Summer 1978

Tour Highlights

Performance Notes: After the conclusion of his tour in January of 1978, Neil set his sights on creating an interesting concept album which was to be called The American Popular Song. His idea was to release an album consisting mostly of new Diamond renditions of a collection of pop songs from various other artists, such as Elton John and Martha and the Vandellas. A few original compositions were also to be included, in particular the title track, which was written for the project by bandmember Tom Hensley.

Although this project never came to fruition, the concept of Diamond’s summer 1978 tour was to test out this new material for the album in front of a live audience. Neil opened these shows with The Dancing Bumble Bee a Diamond composition partially based on the song Bumble Boogie I’ve had reports that some additional songs which Diamond perfomed include Elton John’s Rocket Man, as well as Dancing in the Street, Teach Me Tonight and Lay Lady Lay (an excellent Bob Dylan song). These shows ended in typical Diamond fashion with Soolaimon, a rocking version of Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, and concluding with I’ve Been This Way Before.

Concert Reviews

Diamond at Riverfront Coliseum
Good Times Focus Magazine August 17, 1978.
by Gary Michaels

For me, this was a very unusual concert to attend. I had been used to huge unruly crowds of rather shabbily-dressed members of the so-called ‘rock culture,’ with people selling drugs in the bathrooms while a group of musicians blare their wares at ten decibels more than is necessary.

Sometimes its nice to break away from all that. Neil Diamond’s performance in Cincinnati, August 3, was one of those times. The crowd was not at all like those described above. Most of the people in attendence were couples, ranging from 20 through 50 years of age. Many of the men wore leisure suits, with patent leather white-belts-and-shoes. You know the type - the ladies had donned their summer-dresses-with-matching handbags and had probably had their hair styled for the occasion.

Everyone there had waited a month for this night. The 17,000 seats had sold out in a day and a half.

Neil Diamond is one of the very few entertainers today who clearly needs no introduction. Hence, there wasn’t one. No one stood backstage and screamed into the mike, ‘And now, ladies and gentlemen, Neil Diamond!!’

Instead, the lights dimmed, and amid cheers and applause, Diamond’s back-up band began playing ‘Flight of the Bumblebee’....Yellow laser lights, simulating hundereds of tiny bees, flickered all over the stage. A moment later, they were joined by orange lasers. Judging from the audience’s reaction, I’d say most had never seen a laser show before. They went crazy.

With no more fanfare, Neil Diamond walked onto the stage, picked up his acoustic guitar, and the band switched to the opening strains of Diamond’s latest hit, ‘‘Desiree,’’ while the fans clapped along. After the song, he said, ‘‘Hello Cincinnati, its great to be back again,’’ and went into ‘I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight.’ And he made us all feel as if he really was glad to be with us.

Diamond seemed very at ease on the stage. He’s not a flashy showman, as say, Elvis Presley was. He just stands there and plays and sings the songs that made him famous. When he talks, he sounds sincere. And when he sings, his voice comes through loud and clear, with a richness that’s full and resonant.

He then led us on a trip through the past, with ‘Solitary Man,’ his first hit ‘Kentucky Woman,’ ‘I’m a Believer,’ ‘Cherry, Cherry,’ and ‘Sweet Caroline.’ Of ‘I’m a Believer,’ he told us, ‘‘Here’s a song I wrote in a half-hour. It sold six million copies. The only problem was, I didn’t record it.’’ (The Monkees did)

Following that, Diamond slowed things down a bit with some of his more recent material and a few songs from his upcoming album, slated for release in October. One of these tunes, a slow bluesy number, ‘Teach Me Tonight,’ recieved much applause. Diamond then played nice covers of ‘Dancing in the Streets’ and a down-tempo ‘Rocket Man.’ After bringing his young son, Jesse, on stage, he got everyone on their feet with ‘Song Sung Blue.’ The audience swayed back and forth in time with the music and clapped along. Even Diamond seemed affected, saying ‘‘fantastic, you’re beautiful.’’

The fans remained standing for ‘Cracklin Rosie’ and one of his biggest hits ‘Holly Holy.’ He finished with a really nice rendition of ‘I Am...I Said,’ and left the stage.

The people in the audience must have seen ‘A Star is Born,’ because the moment he exited, thousands of them flicked their Bics. As expected, it produced the desired effect, and, after 2 minutes, Diamond returned to sing ‘Soolaimon’ and kept the crowd on their feet with ‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show.’ Amid more cheering and applause, he again thanked us with the lasers ignited, Diamond retreated.

More Bics, this time 3 minutes worth, brought him back for one final song. I think he realized he had to play a slow tune or these people would never let him go (he’d been on stage for 2 1/2 hours with no break), so he played ‘I’ve Been This Way Before.’ The audience still stood, but silently now, and after he exited for the last time, the house lights came on, and the crowd filed out to their luxury cars to fight the traffic. There was no doubt in their minds that it had been a memorable evening.

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December 1978-December 1979 (You Don’t Bring Me Flowers)

Tour Highlights

Performance Notes: By December of 1978, Neil’s retooled album, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers was released and his duet version of the title track with Barbara Striesand was the number one song in America. Reverting to the use of Dance of the Sabres as the set’s opener, Neil proceeded to deliver a 2 1/2 hour show featuring many of the songs on the album, notably Forever in Blue Jeans, The American Popular Song, Say Maybe, and the title track among others.

For one of the rare times in his performing career, Neil often took a break in the middle of his shows in December 1978, allowing him to perform a slightly longer set than at other times. Apparantly, he used this extra time to perform some of the songs which he had intended to use on The American Popular Song album, such as Spanish Harlem, and Teach Me Tonight. Additionally, Neil continued a habit which he had began in late 1977, that is performing Christmas songs (Rudolf, Winter Wonderland, etc.) during his December tour dates. For most shows, Neil ended the concert with He Ain’t Heavy...He’s My Brother, although I have heard rumors that he performed a version of The Star Spangled Banner at a few of his shows in late 1979. These shows were to be his last for nearly two years.

Concert Reviews

Energetic Diamond delights big crowd
The Oregonian, Monday, February 26, 1979
by John Wendeborn

Neil Diamond, missing Portland for the second year in a row but treating Seattle’s pop music fans to three concerts, sold out the Sunday afternoon show at the Coliseum, turning some 14,000 fans of literally all ages into a screaming, match-lighting ball of enthusiasm.

Diamond has gradually come out of his cocoon, a somewhat oppressive stage style he fashioned years ago, to become a real, solid and even down-to-earth entertainer. Since he returned from his self-imposed exile three years ago, he has not only regained his legion of fans but no doubt garnered legions more. The man has phenomenal energy, which must have driven hiim from an introverted base a decade ago to the composition of some of music’s most autobiographical songs, to where he now comes across as an extrovert.

He hunched over a stool and sang his songs in 1970; he now talks like a Jackie Leonard clone and prowls the stage, making a complete circle in order that all his fans can see him sing. He may not win any awards for jokes, but he ad libs as well as any rock-pop musician on the circiut.

There is, of course, much argument about the quality of Neil Diamond’s music. Some say he’s just a singer-songwriter singing about mundane feelings with some mush thrown in for effect; sothers say he’s a giant talent. Well, Diamond has a great deal of talent for entertaining an audience with his own music. There’s no way you can walk away from one of his 2 1/2 hour nonstop concerts without thinking you’ve seen a show. You also feel good about it.

He’s open and he talks to the crowd (he even borrowed some popcorn and cola from a pair of folks who happened to walk by the front of the stage when he was either hungry or thirsty). He also talked about his mania for candy canes, causing one woman to produce one and bring it forward for his taste buds.

The music? Between all of these goings-on, Diamond produced plenty of songs, mostly old, as is his wont, but spiced the show with some new stuff. He does have a magic way with ballads, even if they are a bit on the gushy side, and his up-tempo works are laced with enough rhythm to get a platoon of zombies dancing. He opened the show with one of his myriad hits, ‘Desiree,’ and before the show had ended, he’d sung ‘Song Sung Blue,’ ‘Kentucky Woman,’ a sequence from his ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ album and several songs from ‘Beautiful Noise,’ including the title song and ‘Street Life,’ which came close to being a Billy Joel simile.

He worked his way into some encores, getting oceans of applause for a medley of ‘Soolaimon’ and ‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show,’ and audience participation on ‘Song Sung Blue.’ Highlights, however, were ‘Play Me,’ a beautiful ballad, and the finale, ‘He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother.’ ‘I Am...I Said’ was also very good.

The most precious part of the evening, vocally, was the love duet ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,’ which has become a hit for Diamond and Barbara Streisand. Linda Press singing the Streisand part was a treat. Diamond was backed by his nine-piece band-10, if you count his young (8 or 9) song Jesse, who played occasional bongos-and this strong unit kept a musical carpet vibrant and energetic all evening beneath Diamond’s voice and songs.

He performed Saturday night and again Sunday night at the Seattle Coliseum. According to Concerts West, the promoter, Diamond did not appear in Portland because Memorial Coliseum was not available. Maybe next year.

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December 1981-December 1982 (On the Way to the Sky)

Tour Highlights

Performance Notes: Neil Diamond returned to the concert stage in 1981 with a radically retooled show, which was not suprising given that he had released three new albums since the beginning of his previous concert tour. America was chosen as the show’s opener, (remaining in that position for the next five years) and the closer as well, with a spirited reprise (mirroring the immensely successful Jazz Singer album.) accompanied by an awesome fireworks display bringing the show to its stunning conclusion.

In between, audiences were delighted with new favorites such as Songs of Life, Hello Again, Amazed and Confused, On the Robert E Lee, Yesterday’s Songs, and Love Burns which were among the many other songs which Neil was able to perform in concert for the first time. Of course, fans also were given a plethora of old favorites as well. I have heard that as the tour progressed, a number of songs were moved in and out of the lineup, notably a few old gems such as Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon, and Shilo, and Neil’s newest song, Heartlight was introduced to audiences in the fall of 1982.

Concert Reviews

Neil Diamond is one of a kind star
Ft Worth Star Telegram, 12/3/82
by Roger Kaye

There was one moment above all others during Neil Diamond’s Thursday night concert at the Tarrant County Convention Center arena when he clearly demonstrated why he has taken a step above superstardom status into a pop music class of his own. That magical moment came 12 songs deep into his sold-out show when Diamond delivered an emotionally charged reading of his 1976 classic, ‘If You Know What I Mean,’ that was positively chilling. The sheer intensity of Diamond’s singing as he surged to the finish line of that number matched anything that Springsteen, the Stones or anybody else can offer. It was the type of show-stopping intensity that threatened to blow the roof off the arena. Or, at least, so it seemed at the time.

Of course, the lid stayed on, and so did Diamond...on the mark, that is. He really could do no wrong Thursday. Although his searing ‘If You Know What I Mean’ was proof enough that the 41 year old New York born performer is a cut above the rest of the pop singing pack, there also was another two hours and 30 minutes’ worth of highlights from which to choose.

Yes, Diamond performed a whopping 155 minutes in all, touching all phases of his career along the way. And he had the crowd of 14,000 in the palm of his hand right from the beginning when he opened with the patriotic, uplifting ‘America.,’ which just happened to be the same selection he closed with 35 songs later.

After following ‘America’ with ‘Desiree’ and ‘I’m Glad You’re Here With Me Tonight,’ Dimaond told the audience, ‘‘We’re going to stay here and do every song we know.’’ He didn’t stay quite that long, but Diamond did offer up a generous sampling of his best work, including his first hit from 1966, ‘Solitary Man.’

‘‘We might as well start from the beginning,’’ he said before reeling off full-fledged, faithful renditions of ‘Solitary Man’ and three more big ones from the ’60’s-’Cherry Cherry,’ ‘Kentucky Woman,’ and ‘Sweet Caroline.’ Then after working his way through ‘Play Me,’ ‘Beautiful Noise,’ ‘If You Know What I Mean,’ ‘Hello Again,’ and ‘Love on the Rocks’, Diamond reached the concert’s midway point by singing ‘Dancing in the Street,’ during which he had the house lights turned on so he could see the crowd dancing to the music. In fact, Diamond sang the Martha and the Vandellas oldie four straight times (17 minutes in all), supposedly because the crowd kept demanding for more. Of course, the truth is that Neil pulls this bit of theatrics at every show and the crowd always seems to love it, just as they did Thursday.

‘‘Just forget about work tomorrow,’’ he told the enthusiastic audience. ‘‘I hearby give you the day off. Of course I guess I may have to write an individual note for each of you.’’ Then came three more hits-‘September Morn,’ ‘Forever in Blue Jeans,’ and ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’ (with backup singer Linda Press capably handling Barbara Streisand’s part)-which led the way into a couple of songs from Diamond’s current album, ‘Heartlight.’ As he sang the title cut from that record (the smash single that was inspired by the motion picture ET) the crowd held matches and lighters aloft in the darkened arena. ‘‘I hope you have at least one copy of the album’’ Diamond joked.

After singing ‘Happy Birthday’ to Press and introducing his crack backup band...Diamond headed for the finish with ‘Song Sung Blue,’ ‘Cracklin Rosie,’ and ‘I Am...I Said.’ He came back three different times for encores, starting with a string of tunes from ‘Jonathan Livingston Seagull’ and then returning with ‘Soolaimon’ and a blazing ‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show’ before finally closing with a reprise of ‘America.’

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April 1983-February 1984 (Heartlight)

Tour Highlights

Performance Notes: Neil’s 1983 shows were more or less slightly revised editions of his performances of the previous year. While the setlist followed that earlier pattern for the most part, some changes were made. Desiree was replaced with I’m Alive, a cut from his new Heartlight album, and You Baby was added to the Jazz Singer segment of the show. Still included were the many repeats of Forever in Blue Jeans and Dancing in the Street which had become staples of Diamond’s live shows.

This was also the year that Neil first introduced a medley of tunes centered around The American Popular Song. While I’m told that this was performed only sporadically I do know that the medley included such hits as Spanish Harlem, Teach Me Tonight, Dedicated to the One that I Love, and Golden Slumbers. Neil used this time to pay tribute to these great songs which were either part of American popular music, or (in the case of the Beatles Golden Slumbers)greatly influenced by it.

By October of 1983, Neil had already written a number of new tunes which were to be included on his next album. Often during this time he performed one or two of those songs, Primitive, and Fire on the Tracks onstage. At this point, the lyrics and music to these songs deviated from the eventual album versions in varying degrees. Reportedly, audiences in Oakland, CA (among others) responded enthusiastically to these tunes.

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June 1984-April 1985 (Primitive)

Tour Highlights

Neil’s Primitive album was released in July of 1984, and due to a lack of marketing support from Columbia records, it became one of Neil’s most underrated albums of all time. The 1984 shows were still largely based on the setlist first created in December 1981. The American Popular Song and Medley was often performed, however I have heard reports that it was sometimes replaced with Dance of the Sabres or The Dancing Bumble Bee at times, especily during the European leg of the tour. A pleasant addition to the show was the inclusion of Red Red Wine to the concerts. From Primitive, Neil chose to perform the excellent title track, as well as Brooklyn on a Saturday Night and Turn Around on a regular basis during his summer and fall shows. You Make it Feel Like Christmas (as well as a few other Christmas favorites) was added to the show during the holiday season. The reprise of America was usually left off of the set in the later shows, leaving Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show to cap off the evening, except for the suprise reemergence of I’ve Been This Way Before for a few shows in March of 1985.

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December 1985-July 1987 (Headed for the Future)

Tour Highlights

Performance Notes: I had been listening to Neil Diamond’s music since 1974, becoming a fan when only but seven years old, yet the night of April 22, 1986 was my first opportunity to see Neil perform live in concert. I really didn’t know what to expect, as my knowledge of Neil’s concerts was limited to the content of his videos and live albums such as Love at the Greek. I arrived at the Spectrum (America’s Showplace and home of the 1995-1996 Stanley Cup champion Philadelphia Flyers) expecting an excellent show, and I got just that.

Certainly, I was confronted with many suprises along the way. It simply had never occured to me that Neil would ever put on a show without perfoming Longfellow Serenade, and I remember being POSITIVE that it would pop up, even when Neil kicked into Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show I remember thinking that he MUST be coming back for yet another encore. Oh well, I don’t understand that to this day.

Not withstanding this dissapointment, the show was indeed excellent and exceeded my expectations by far. Neil’s showmanship was even better than it comes across on his commercially available shows. To me, the highlights of the show were Red Red Wine and Brooklyn Roads and the entire conclusion of the show from I Am...I Said onward was an experience which I will never forget. The laser seagulls project on a screen onstage were the most impressive special effects, and really helped set the mood for that segment of the show (like I wouldn’t have been awed without them, anyway). Personally I love it when Neil concludes his show with a ballad, rather than Brother Love’s... or America so I was delighted to hear the song Heartlight put the lid on a great evening of Diamond music.

Setlist From My First Diamond Concert, Philadelphia April 22, 1986
Concert Reviews

You’ll Never find a Diamond more polished than Neil
New York Daily News 7/26/86 (by David Hinckley)

You know when multicolored laser beam seagulls are gracefully flapping across a big screen in a darkened Madison Square Garden, and 20,000 people are applauding wildly, that whoever is running this show has the place well under control. After a 10-year absence from the stage in his hometown, Neil Diamond probably only had to throw his black acoustic guitar onto the stage Thursday night to win cheering, stomping adulation. As a craftsman, however, he did much more--starting with the basic but effective trick of using that guitar to play lots of his old tunes, the ones those 20,000 people remember. ‘Cracklin Rosie’, ‘Song Sung Blue’...There’s nothing like a live show to remind you how many songs someone sang that you remember. Diamond’s own favorite seemed to be ‘Forever in Blue Jeans’, after which he coaxed the crowd (rather easily) into requesting three reprises....Diamond did the 2 1/2 hour, no-intermission show on high-octane charm. He may modestly say he isn’t sure he’s entered the American music tradition, but he’s certainly entrenched in American showbiz....The stagework and sound mix (after the first two numbers) were impressive, especily for an opening show in an acoustic bad dream like the Garden. Diamond has shows nightly through July 31; it’s unlikely he and the seagulls will be alone.

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1988-1989 (The Best Years of Our Lives)

Tour Highlights

Set List 1988-89

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December 1991-June 1993 (Lovescape)

Tour Highlights

Typical Early 1992 Show

Notes: Some Christmas songs from The Christmas Album were added to show in Phoenix, October 1992. Spring 1993: Stones, Up On the Roof, You’ve Lost That Loving Feeling added to show.

Concert Reviews

Diamond shines in coliseum show
The Post and Courier 3/1/93 (by Edward C Fennell)

Neil Diamond, ‘You ain’t got no right, no, no you don’t, to be so exciting!’ Obviously pumped by the sold-out crowd that packed North Charleston Coliseum Sunday night to see the first of his two local performances, Diamond put on a stellar show. He didn’t even need the fancy stage lighting or the laser show. To again quote from the song, ‘Cherry Cherry’, Diamond made ‘his own lightning’. Performing with his nine-piece band on a rotating stage, Diamond electrified every section of the appreciative, mainly baby-boomer coliseum crowd. He played some of his newer songs, but got better response from his oldies...

The crowd was on its feet many times, but at times sat quietly and marveled at the rendition of songs such as ‘Solitary Man’, ‘I Am...I Said’, ‘September Morn’, and ‘Play Me’. During the latter song, he got a response from more than a few females in the audience....Diamond dipped deep into his past, joking that he still remembers ‘every lousy word’ of his first song, ‘Hear Them Bells’. The band went reggae for ‘Red Red Wine,’ an obscure Diamond creation until the band UB40 recorded it recently...

‘Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show,’ about a dubious religious experience, was the show’s closer. But two songs earlier, Diamond was more impressive with ‘Holly Holy,’ his performance of which was almost a religious experience.

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October 1993-December 1993 (Christmas/Brill Building)

Major US Cities

Typical Christmas 1993 Show
Concert Reviews

DATE: Monday, December 13, 1993
Copyright 1993, San Jose Mercury News
DAVID PLOTNIKOFF, Mercury News Music Writer


It’s probably a good thing Neil Diamond isn't selling anything other than himself. His powers of persuasion are so well-honed that if he had other agendas -- say politics or religion -- millions of Americans would undoubtedly be addressing him as Sen. Diamond or Diamond Dass right now. As it were, there is no ulterior motive behind his hunger for mass adulation. It is a quest for personal approval, writ large with laser lights and lush arrangements.

Diamond's sold-out concert Saturday night at the San Jose Arena (his three- night run concludes with an 8 p.m. show tonight) was a lesson in superior stagecraft. After 25 years, his command of his audience and his act is nearly total. Yet this canny, consummate pro still comes on full-bore every night -- because that's the only way he performs. Whether one likes his music or not, that go-ballistic-or-don't-go-at-all philosophy demands respect.

The old warhorse didn't just exceed the industry-standard 90-minute set. He came within a few minutes of doubling it, with no padding and no patter. At age 52, Diamond is still every inch the Super Nebbish -- looking slim and fit in his Sansabelt slacks and spangled tops. He is unabashedly square and unfashionable to the point that he could probably make Up With People seem mildly subversive by comparison. But with 92 million albums sold, the King of the Middle of the Road doesn't owe any apologies or explanations to the hipster crowd. His contribution to pop culture was securely banked decades ago. And today he has no true peers from the old school of pop, save perhaps Neil Sedaka. Certainly the Sinatras and the Tom Joneses of the world are cut from a different cloth altogether.

Saturday's 34-song marathon (which he conducted from the center of a motorized circular stage with a troop of 10 instrumentalists and six backup singers arrayed at his feet) was a three-way deal. Although he could easily fill two hours with nothing but his own hits, he opted to flog Christmas standards and classic Brill Building pop covers from his two most recent albums. His arrangements for the familiar material were anything but parsimonious. In Diamond's book, if five backing players are good on a particular number, 10 are better. The super-disciplined band swathed all the songs in great billowing waves of sound, putting an almost Baroque frame around Diamond's vocals.

Essentially, Diamond replicated the Phil Spector Wall of Sound for Ike and Tina Turner's River Deep, Mountain High and the Righteous Brothers' You've Lost that Lovin' Feeling. The heavy-handed treatment didn't do much for the Drifters' classics Save the Last Dance for Me and Up On the Roof. The Shirelles' Will You Still Love Me Tomorrow? just slogged along.

The Christmas material was weak tea, with the notable exception of The Little Drummer Boy (he does the most authoritative parumpapumpum this side of Johnny Cash) and Santa Claus Is Coming To Town. Of his own hits, Cherry, Cherry and Thank The Lord For the Night Time were the most finely rendered entries of the evening.

Diamond's only serious misstep was the Dionne Warwick tune Do You Know the Way to San Jose. One need not consult the Psychic Friends Network to know that dog had its day long ago. The crowd did not exactly bust a move jumping to sway along. The song ran about as smoothly as a First Street trolley with square wheels.

Midway through the show, Diamond's voice was toast. And by the time he did the duet You Don't Bring Me Flowers, he was vocally upstaged by his backup singer. But easing up is not a strategy that comes readily to Diamond. When it comes to over-emoting truly he is the William Shatner of pop. If he chewed any more scenery up there, he would have had to file an environmental impact report.

The songs, unfortunately, don't help. They are uniformly ponderous, bombastic and mawkishly sentimental. There was so much cheese in that song list that he could have spread it with a John Deere tractor, not a butter knife. The clap-alongs, the everybody-stand-arm-in-arm sing-a-longs on Sweet Caroline and Song Sung Blue, the Bic-lighter shtick on Heartlight, the disco-ball wash of starlight on Up On the Roof were all regulation Diamond. Yet he outdid himself with an easy-listening version of Cat Stevens' Morning has Broken -- in waltz time -- and a stomping, fist-pumping take on Hava Nagila...

Down the home-stretch, he poured it on, with a bravura take on Cracklin' Rosie. As he punched the air with his index finger and bellowed 'Well that's all right -- 'cause we got all night . . .' it became apparent he could have filibustered until midnight without exhausting his list of hits. After I Am . . . I Said, he stopped as he headed for the ramp, spun and decided to gild the lily with just one more -- the ersatz gospel rave-up, Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show. There he stood, utterly spent, yet triumphant, bellowing like a latter-day Huey Long in Lycra, 'God's children allllll, God's children allll . . .' And the crowd went wild.

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