Windsor, Ontario, Canada - St. Dennis Hall, University of Windsor

Feb 02, 1969

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  1. Windsor Star

    February 3, 1969

    Diamond roughing it
    By John Laycock

    Maybe Neil Diamond likes bucking the odds. Certainly the deck was stacked against him at the University of Windsor’s winter weekend concert Sunday night. But the young singer-songwriter managed to put on about as entertaining a show as could be expected under pretty trying circumstances. Here’s what Diamond was up against:

    –St Dennis Hall’s big ceiling fan, seasoned by years of sweaty athletic battling, roared away through the whole set–directly above Diamond’s head.

    –The warm-up act, the Blues Syndicate, was barely lukewarm. A clean-cut Brampton bunch, the Syndicate would dearly love to be a brassy Memphis soul group, a most unrealistic ambition. I distinctly heard Otis Redding, rolling in his grave.

    –The sound system was disastrous. The worst I’ve ever heard at a university concert, and over the years, I’ve suffered through a lot of crummy amplification.

    Yet Diamond seemed to rise to the challenge, fighting back to avert catastrophe in the only possible way–he laughed. With good-humored quips about St. Dennis Hall’s hazards, he quickly projected a warm stage presence that pulled the audience over to his side, persuading them to minimize the difficulties of the concert and enjoy themselves too.

    The songs helped, of course. Diamond will never make it as a poet, but he has the knack of writing catchy tunes that stubbornly refuse to be forgotten. He’s a consistent, polished performer, rarely creating any major excitement on the hit parade and usually quite predictable in his writing.

    Yet, his simple, melodic songs, seasoned with a dash of blues and a pinch of country, have kept him on the hit charts consistently since 1966–Kentucky Woman, Brooklyn Roads, Solitary Man, Cherry Cherry and the rest.

    Often–as on his most recent album, Velvet Gloves and Spit, Uni 73030–he works up a gentle folk sound.

    Sunday’s concert, though, tended more toward straight rock, just as well, since few subtleties could squeeze through the tinny sound system. The distinctive qualities of his voice were hurt by the sound system too. A little bitter but not sharp, and warmed by a slight New York twang, his voice turned harsh and jagged as he fought to be heard.

    Yet Diamond won the battle, turning a potential debacle into a minor victory.



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