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Neil Diamond Live In Concert

(Review - Ian Bell)

In recent weeks, Adelaide has not been short of visits from musicans that rightly deserve the mantle legend. Fleetwood Mac, Burt Bacharach, Dr Hook...Boney M. Many of these acts have provided the soundtrack to people's lives for decades, creating songs and records that have become eternal standards. Songs that people get married to. Songs that movies and TV shows use to transport the viewer to a specific time and place. Songs that can bring joy and happiness to the heart from the very opening refrains. Neil Diamond is absolutely one of those musical icons. His own catalogue of songs is impressive and the hit interpretations of his songs by other artists span decades.

A large diamond shaped video screen dominates the stage while the two smaller screens on either sides invites the audience to tweet selfies to the big screen before Neil takes the stage. The main reason I mention this is so I get to tell you the hash tag was #tweetcaroline, the sort of mammothly good dad joke I really enjoy. We are reminded several times that the lights will dim 'suddenly' and eventually, they do. The impressive fourteen piece band is vamping when a door in the video screen opens and out walks Mr Diamond in a gold lame jacket that could be seen from the surface of Mars.

Neil jumps into I'm A Believer, written by Diamond it was a massive hit for The Monkees in 1966 and helped establish him as a songwriter and hit maker. It's often believed that Believer (and several other Diamond penned Monkees hits, A Little Bit You A Little Bit Me, Look Out Here Comes Tomorrow, etc) was written specifically for the US TV pop stars, but that wasn't the case. He was a songwriter at the legendary Brill building and The Monkees cover versions just got released before his own. What a great song.

I thought love was only true in fairytales
It seemed the more I gave the less I got
Love was out to get me, or so it seems
Disappointment haunted all me dreams
And then I saw her face....

Many artists would kill to have written even one such perfect pop song. In fact some artists still tour internationally on the back of one hit half as good as this. But Diamond has dozens of songs of this calibre. Tonight serves up so many perfect pop songs it is almost dizzying. Love On The Rocks and Hello Again from his 1980 movie The Jazz Singer, are both rapturously received. There are some newer songs in the set and while they are perfectly good, solid songs welcomed warmly, the difference in crowd reaction is noticeable. Pretty Amazing Grace is from 2008's Home Before Dark but leads nicely into Longfellow Serenade (1974) and You Got To Me (1994). At 74 years old Neil Diamond is in fine voice. He works the stage, making sure to play to the people in the restricted view seats behind the stage throughout. He tells us how happy he is to be back in Adelaide and how happy is to see our city develop into a proper city over his many visits since 1977 (although it was actually 1976).

But truth be told people are here for songs like Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon and Play Me (I am the Sun, You are the moon, I am the words, you are the tune...) and when the audience is bathed in red light and they start to play the evergreen Red Red Wine the entire audience is up on their feet, singing along and doing some impressive dad dancing. One of his most beloved songs Red Red Wine was also a huge hit for UK reggae outfit UB40 in the 80s, not too sure about the rapping in the middle but it was terrific. Beautiful Noise is terrific and leads nicely into If You Know What I Mean and the equally introspective Brooklyn Roads, which is nicely accompanied home movies of Neil as a child. Shiloh is a personal highlight this evening. I've been listening to that song for forty years and it is still amazing.

When Neil tells us they would like to do some songs from the new album, there is a lot of folk deciding that it's a good time for a toilet break. Three new songs in a row (Seongah & Jimmy, Something Blue and The Art of Love) may have been a bit much for some people but generally they are all good songs and the audience was enthusiastic. That stepped up considerably with the sing-a-long joy of Song Sung Blue and the catchy Forever in Blue Jeans.

Neil talks a bit about his 1972 live album Hot August Night and thanks us for making such a hit. It has to be said, it wasn't just a hit. It was a phenomena. In Australia the double live album was number one in the album charts for TWENTY NINE WEEKS. That's over seven months. It is inconceivable that such a thing could happen again. It's appeal was universal. It showcases one of the greatest singer/songwriters of the era at his absolute peak. Great band, great singer, awesome production, incredible performance. The live double album was a uniquely 70's thing and was the making of many a band. Kiss (Alive!), Peter Frampton (Frampton Comes Alive!) and others all took quantum leaps in their career via the live album. For much of this audience the songs from Hot August Night hold a very special place in their love of Neil Diamond. So the entire Entertainment Centre is on it's feet for the extended Cherry Cherry, complete with band introductions and solos. Soolaimon and Holly Holy have everybody singing and the set closer I am ... I Said is emotional and note perfect.

But of course, we are not done yet. Diamond returns for a jubilant Cracklin' Rosie and when the band starts playing the unmistakable refrain of Sweet Caroline, the place goes crazy. Is there a better sing-a-long pleasure greater than singing BOM BOM BOM at the top of your lungs? I think you'll find there is not. Good times have indeed, never been so good. With such a catalogue of hugely popular songs, there were inevitable omissions which may have missed by chunks of the audience, for me I did miss Crunchy Granola Suite, The Boat That I Row and Solitary Man, but it's a minor quibble on an other wise exemplary set list.

Things wind up with Dr Love's Travelling Salvation Show, another favourite from Hot August Night. It is a jubilant end to proceedings and a great showcase of Diamonds vocals and his excellent band.

In a world where current superstars appear and disappear at the speed of light, Neil Diamond is still showing us how it's done. Diamonds are forever.

Set List:

I'm a Believer
Love on the Rocks
Hello Again
Pretty Amazing Grace
Longfellow Serenade
You Got To Me
Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon
Play Me
Red, Red Wine
Beautiful Noise
If You Know What I Mean
Brooklyn Roads
Seongah & Jimmy
Something Blue
The Art of Love
Song Sung Blue
Forever In Blue Jeans
Cherry, Cherry
Holly Holy
I Am ... I Said

Cracklin' Rosie
Sweet Caroline
Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show

Excellent tickets are still available for Neil's other shows across Australia:

Tue 03 Nov
Thu 05 Nov
Mon 09 Nov
Wed 11 Nov
Sat 14 Nov
Mon 16 Nov

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