Tempe, Arizona - ASU Grammage Auditorium

Oct 16, 1970

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  1. The Arizona Republic

    October 17, 1970

    Audience warms to Neil Diamond
    By Jack Swanson

    The curtain parts, the band, lighted in blue, strums softly, expectantly. The applause dies and Neil Diamond strides–almost lopes–to the center of the stage. He’s taller than you expected.

    He strikes a beat and the audience is pushed back into the seats by a wall of sound–not really that loud at times, but heavy, insistent.

    And then, suddenly, the song is over and a little boy from Brooklyn is standing in the spotlight, not a superstar whose big, new song has been riding the top of the carts for weeks.

    The boy is quiet, poised, but still, almost embarrassed before the thousands of people who came to see him. He wants to be friends. He wants you to know him as a real person, not a name. And, the audience responds. Warmly. Lovingly. Thunderingly.

    Of course, one of the reasons singers are compelled to undertake grueling tours of one-night stands on campuses across the nation is to let the fans know they are more than just voices blaring from radio speakers. The trips sell a lot of records, too, but it’s that personal touch with the audience that counts.

    They came to hear his songs, and he didn’t disappoint them: “Sweet Caroline,” “Solitary Man,” “Clouds,” “Kentucky Woman.”

    Diamond’s voice echoes many influences: The Beatles, Merle Travis, Woody and Arlo Guthrie.

    But the amalgam is all his own and it’s pleasing. Folk rock? Country rock? Rock country ballad? Labels are meaningless. The beat is rock, the guitars are country western and the words are folk with modern themes. Diamond is best when he’s singing his own material, but he sings other things, too.

    He ended his formal program before liberal encores with a tune by late Bob Russell, called, “He’s Not a Hippie, He’s My Brother.”

    But one of his best is in top slot on the record sales charts. Ever wonder where Diamond got the theme for his bestseller, “Cracklin’ Rosie?” Here’s how he told it:

    “We were up in Canada not long ago on tour,” he said, “and I met a woman up there who told me about a little town up in the Yukon Territory where the men outnumber the women.

    “When it’s Saturday night and a man finds he hasn’t got a date, he goes down to the grocery and buys himself a bottle of crackling rose wine. He calls his bottle Rosie and that’s his girl for the weekend.”

    Touching story, and he told it well. He sang it even better.

    Perhaps a bit much of the limelight was on Diamond. He is blessed with some of the best backup musicians in the business, and he readily acknowledged the fact. Diamond doesn’t claim to be much of a guitarist, and he isn’t. But he’s better than average.

    Those fantastic guitar solos you hear behind him come from the tiny fingers of one of the prettiest and most accomplished girl guitarists around, Carol Hunter. Diamond credits her with being probably the best 12-string guitarist in the country. It’s easy to believe.

    He also is blessed with a refreshingly funny warm-up man, Sandy Baron. His material ranges from the ribald to the outright prurient as he explores such up-to-date topics for teens as shacking up, the Pill and Scoring. But even the teenie-boppers took it in good spirits.

    Diamond is developing excellent showmanship to go along with his obvious abilities as writer and singer. When Glen Campbell, Johnny Cash and the country music boom start getting old on television, Neil Diamond very likely could be the one to lead the new sound to succeed them.



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