St. Louis, Missouri - Kiel Opera House

Feb 13, 1971

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  1. St. Louis Globe-Democrat
    February 15, 1971

    Neil Diamond gets big ovation at Kiel; Clara Ward sings

    By John Brod Peters

    Singer-composer Neil Diamond received a standing ovation from a capacity audience Saturday night at the end of his first St. Louis performance at Kiel Opera House.

    Although there is clearly a lot of Elvis in Diamond’s style and delivery, it is inaccurate to say–as some reviewers have–that his music is anachronistic. The influence of the 60’s is clearly felt in Diamond’s beat, intensity and intervals; and a king of Beatlesque craftsmanship is obvious in his arrangements.

    Diamond’s personal style aside, all of this is obvious in the musicianship of his excellent four-man back-up group, who, in spite of their typical instruments, actually came on with a contrapuntal baroque introduction as the singer walked onstage.

    Diamond selected a number of his own familiar hit compositions as well as those of other composers, and, pointing and puckering and gyrating his legs, belted them out in a brackish voice that occasionally reduced itself to a rasp. For contrast, his accompanists occasionally harmonized with him.

    Interspersed among the songs was a fair amount of friendly patter–including an impromptu photo session for the innumerable shutterbugs that punctuate such events with a continual flashing–all of which gave the show a kind of relaxed spontaneity.

    Diamond’s generous encore included “Kentucky Woman.”

    Despite the persistently bittersweet quality of his delivery, Diamond’s range was considerable: From the near-howl of acid-rock to the lyrical sentimentality of “He’s My Brother”–with, a fair amount of plain sensuousness in between.

    The early half of the program was occupied by Clara Ward and the five Ward Gospel Singers, who, in their flashy outfits and bouffant wigs, have apparently brought at least some of the consolations of religion to the fleshpots of Las Vegas, jazz festivals throughout the world and national television shows.

    As one might expect, the group’s slick performance loses some of the patina of ethnic authenticity that such music has when one hears it performed in tabernacles where it originated.

    Nevertheless, the basic authenticity was there–along with an easy delivery and touches of humor among individual soloists.

    Among their selections were “Just a Closer Walk with Thee,” “If I Had a Hammer,” “Joshua,” “Them Bones”–and the inevitable Swing Low Sweet Chariot” and “Oh Happy Day.”

    Proof of their quality was the attention and apparent enjoyment of an audience who had come to hear an essentially different kind of music.



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