Seattle, Washington - Key Arena

Aug 22, 1999

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  1. Diamond thrills audience with hit-filled performance

    Monday, August 23, 1999


    Don’t be surprised if someone you know has sore hands and bruised shoulders this morning.

    Your friend may have been at KeyArena last night, vigorously clapping and swaying to Neil Diamond’s greatest hits.

    Dressed in black slacks and a black, rhinestone-studded shirt, the emperor of pop delivered the first of two schmaltzy, high-powered shows — filled with such hits as “Sweet Caroline,” “Song Sung Blue” and “Cracklin’ Rosie.”

    Neil Diamond. Pop concert last night at KeyArena. A second concert is tonight at KeyArena. Tickets $29.50-$39.50 at Ticketmaster.

    The music went ’round and ’round as Diamond strolled about a rotating circular stage at the center of KeyArena. Seated in the pit below was a nine-piece band, featuring two electric guitarists who hammed it up during a dueling spotlight performance. Diamond also showed off his guitar-playing skills on a special-edition Gibson acoustic bearing his name.

    Looking healthy and fit, the 58-year-old star dedicated the show to “the home of Eddie Bauer and Starbucks.” The audience spanned three generations, from Gen Xers to fans in their 50s and 60s.

    Diamond’s show included a segment devoted to his current album, “The Movie Album: As Time Goes By,” a collection of blockbuster tunes from classic motion pictures. Among the selections was a tender “Can’t Help Falling in Love,” the Elvis Presley hit from “Blue Hawaii.”

    Diamond’s own hits included “Love on the Rocks,” “Play Me,” “Shilo,” “Forever in Blue Jeans” and a duet of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” with a background singer.

    During “Sweet Caroline,” it was the audience that joined in on background vocals.

    Diamond’s single encore included such songs as “Holly Holy” and a rousing “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.”


  2. Diamond serves up a bit of everything

    August 23, 1999

    by Tom Scanlon
    Seattle Times nightclub reporter

    One of the great things about being Neil Diamond is that, as you stride into the twilight of your career, no one can accuse you of becoming an out-of-step, unhip, irrelevant, has-been self-parody.

    Because, really, you always were out-of-step, unhip, irrelevant. And though quite a few of your hit songs were marvelous pop orchestrations, others bordered on self-parody, even when you were selling albums by the tens of millions.

    While his days on the Top 40 list are far behind him, Diamond, at 58, is not yet ready to sing “Cacklin’ Rosie,” “You Can’t Find the Car Keys” or “What’s That . . . You Said?” Dressed in black shoes, black pants and a black shirt studded with rhinestones (or were they diamonds?), Diamond was peppy – maybe a bit too peppy for his own good.

    Early in a two-hour show, the Brooklyn-born singer – looking a bit Nixonesque, especially around the eyes – made this frightening announcement: “I’ve got an itch to do some heavy-duty rock-and-roll!”

    It turned out to be merely an introduction to a harmless dueling-electric-guitar session between two of his musicians. Still, it was telling; whenever Diamond had his musicians playing rock-style, he was exposing his weakest flank. Such was the case on the grotesquely strained “I’m a Believer,” a Diamond song first done by the Monkees.

    Other uncomfortable moments came when Diamond worked the adoring crowd a little too hard, coaxing it to dance along with him (and he’s no “Soul Train” material), instructing it how to sing along (as if it needed it!) to “Song Sung Blue,” doing mock double-takes at the screams to the light eroticism of “Sweet Caroline.”

    Diamond was at his best when the music was stripped down and when he took the songs seriously. Example: “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” which, played straight, was a beautiful duet, showcasing Diamond’s voice (as well as that of backup singer Linda Press).

    His current tour is technically to promote his recent “The Movie Album” release. Yet he stopped here only briefly, to Diamondize the “Casablanca” classic “As Time Goes By,” and “Can’t Help Falling in Love With You,” from the Elvis vehicle “Blue Hawaii.” No lasting harm done to either.

    Most of the show was one Diamond oldie after another: “Love on the Rocks,” “Hello Again,” “America” (flags unfurling, literally), “I Am . . . I Said” (very strong, done without goofy touches), “Holly Holy” (one of those disturbingly “rocked-up” numbers), “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” (hampered by a weak guitar line that makes it pale, compared with the Urge Overkill/”Pulp Fiction” version), “Forever in Blue Jeans” and many more.



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