Inglewood, California - Great Western Forum

Dec 19, 2001

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  1. LOS ANGELES DAILY NEWS REVIEW
    Thu Dec 20 23:21:33 2001

    December 21, 2001

    Neil Diamond and L.A. fans stand for America

    By Scott Holleran
    Correspondent

    Pop legend Neil Diamond staged a triumphant return Wednesday to L.A.’s Great Western Forum — where Diamond holds the house record with 25 sold-out concerts — filling the packed hall with a mix of hits, early songs and memorable performances.
    The mostly baby boomer crowd roared as the singer-songwriter was unveiled behind a giant American flag and opened with his patriotic anthem, “America.” The Brooklyn-born star was all glitter and passion, his face a catharsis for his music. When Diamond replaced the chorus with “Stand up for America!” fans did. Diamond also closed with “America,” following two encore performances, as Old Glory was unfurled.

    Elegant staging, top musicians (especially the saxophone player and the string quartet) and Diamond’s precise timing made the show — the opening concert of a four-night stint — nearly flawless. Yes, he’s older, but Diamond sang such hits as “Forever in Blue Jeans” as if each was new and he included a few songs off his new album, “Three Chord Opera.” One of those songs, “At the Movies,” was the show’s only clunker, getting lost in its melodrama.

    Thirty years of making pop music makes for a concert that’s bound to disappoint some fans, but “Song Sung Blue,” one of Diamond’s No. 1 hits, seemed sorely missing from the playlist. Still, Diamond’s powerful renditions of “Play Me,” “Yes I Will/Lady Magdalene” and “Sweet Caroline,” easily the night’s biggest crowd-pleaser, kept everyone smiling and clapping along. How the man can keep making “I Am … I Said” sound fresh is an incredible achievement, but Diamond did, sitting on a stool and giving the song an intimate, toned-down touch.

    Diamond’s stage chatter included a tribute to his late percussionist, Vince Charles, and a salute to our troops at war — which was enthusiastically received with a standing ovation — but the night’s most personal comments came when Diamond talked about discovering the piano as a tool for storytelling and introspection while he was growing up in New York. Then he sat down and did what Neil Diamond does best; he played the instrument and unabashedly poured his heart into the song.

    NEIL DIAMOND

    Where: Great Western Forum.

    When: 8 p.m. today and Saturday.

    Tickets: $37.50 to $67.50. Charge by phone: (213) 480-3232

    Our rating: 4 stars

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  2. LOS ANGELES TIMES REVIEW
    Fri Dec 21 09:29:39 2001

    December 21, 2001

    POP MUSIC REVIEW
    Neil Diamond Veers From Hokey to Heartfelt

    By NATALIE NICHOLS, SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

    It wasn’t hard to guess which tune Neil Diamond would open with Wednesday at the Forum. The giant U.S. flag hanging in front of the stage practically guaranteed he’d start with “America,” one of his three Top 10 hits from the 1980 movie “The Jazz Singer,” in which he starred.

    The song represents an era when the Brooklyn-born artist’s chart popularity had never been higher. Diamond’s genteel pop and persona–a blend of Elvis-style great entertainer and Dylan-style personal songwriter–made him America’s top male vocalist from 1966 to 1986. On Wednesday, he offered hit upon hit that testified to his enduring appeal, as well as many selections from his current collection, “Three Chord Opera.”

    “America’s” tale of hopeful immigrants arriving on American shores encapsulated themes of patriotism and optimism that resonated throughout the two-hour show, the first of a three-night engagement. The over-the-top presentation–complete with the unfurling of three more stars-and-stripes banners and Diamond’s call to “stand up for America”–provided that element of self-seriousness bordering on camp that some (mostly younger) fans seemed to enjoy almost as much as his genuinely fine songwriting moments. Indeed, the performance was an uneven blend of touching-to-overwrought sentiment, wacky humor and hackneyed audience-participation segments that momentarily transformed the arena into a cruise-ship lounge. Wearing a sparkly shirt and dress slacks, Diamond, 60, played some acoustic guitar and a little piano, and often bantered with the crowd.

    Although high-tech, the concert felt slightly old-fashioned, due in part to the lack of video screens and the presence of a string quartet instead of synthesized strings. The band also included brass, keyboards, guitar, drums, percussion and backing vocalists.

    Simple emotions writ large were the order of the night, which often led to bombast, as in a melodramatic “Holly Holy” and the show’s nadir, “At the Movies.” The virgin-seduction number “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” felt a little creepy, but Diamond lightened it by engaging in romantic shenanigans with a young audience member.

    But Diamond was also genuinely affecting with such numbers as a subdued “Solitary Man” and a rollicking “Cherry, Cherry.” These moments underscored the real humanity behind even his more pretentious works. Indeed, by the time that big U.S. flag dropped back down after the encores, even nonbelievers left humming his tunes.

    Neil Diamond plays today and Saturday at the Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood, 8 p.m. $37.50 and $67.50. (310) 419-3100.

    For information about reprinting this article, go to http://www.lats.com/rights

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  3. ORANGE COUNTY REGISTER REVIEW
    Fri Dec 21 09:31:32 2001

    Older, yes, but still Neil Diamond
    The singer’s well-honed showmanship and songwriting prowess warrant much of the worship.

    December 21, 2001

    By BEN WENER
    The Orange County Register

    It wasn’t much after 9 p.m. Wednesday night and Neil Diamond was six songs in, staring down an adoring but at first subdued and traffic-beaten crowd, trying to stir ’em up.

    He’d already coasted through “Cherry Cherry,” slowly sipped some “Red Red Wine” to a Jimmy Buffett beat and breezed past a “Solitary Man” so laid back in his wizened age he might as well have been reminiscing over Melinda and Sue – those part-time things and their paper rings – from the coziness of a La-Z-Boy recliner.

    He’d played the one she predicted, too. A new one called “A Mission of Love.” “He spells it out – l-o-v-e,” she had mentioned on the drive to the Forum, in between excited gasps. “You know he just loves getting people to sing along that way.”

    He’d even done his über-patriot bit on “America.” Opened with it, for crying out loud, as a gargantuan Old Glory rose to reveal his sparkly shirt, graying hair, thick eyebrows and that trusty pained expression, equal parts God-bless-ya earnestness, Vegas drama and constipation.

    “I’m a Believer” began. The crowd of 15,000-plus started to get interested. And after waving to him frantically, beckoning him to come closer and repeatedly clasping her hands in thankful prayer, the lifelong rabid fan that is my 64-year-old mother-in-law, Joan, finally acknowledged what was plenty apparent.

    “OK. I see. It’s different now. He really does look older.”

    “Yeah,” I said. “He’s slowed down some.”

    “But he’s real. He hasn’t had any plastic surgery. He’s not at all phony. It’s just him!”

    A few seconds passed. Then this: “And he’s still got the cutest butt in the world.”

    I know. I didn’t need to hear it, either.

    Diamond fans can get pretty crazed, it turns out. I saw strange things during the legendary performer’s first of three sold-out shows at the Lakers’ old home this week.

    Grown women in expensive duds squealing like the Beatles just took the stage at the Hollywood Bowl. A brigade of giggly 20-somethings(!) decked out in black T-shirts with NEIL and a diamond etched out in rhinestones across their chests.

    And the object of their worship, a man old enough to be Harry Potter’s grandfather, singing “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon.” Creepy – though not nearly as unnerving as when he took the hand of a young woman in the front row and proceeded to mock- seduce her.

    I also saw (and heard) things that reminded me why I have a hard time despising Diamond, despite how little interest I have in his music post-“Beautiful Noise.”

    A packed arena chanting the whoa-whoa-whoa backup for “Sweet Caroline,” for instance, or going nutty for “Cracklin’ Rosie” – resisting such simple joys is to unnecessarily play the party pooper and forget that, to many, Neil picked up where Elvis left off. That he’s still giving this predictable routine his all and then some – and getting less respect than thinly veiled ironic insults for it – is worth applauding.

    He deserves the acclaim. Cut from a mold that was shattered decades ago, Diamond is a songwriter whose greatest hits will last beyond eternity because they make people feel good in the most basic ways – either by dramatically revving them up for an enormous release or providing heartbreak in which to wallow, then conquer.

    Both approaches have undeniable peaks. For the former, I dare you to snub the majestic climax of “Holly Holy.” For the latter … um, look, don’t spread it around, but I happen to think “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” beautifully performed here, is one amazing ballad.

    I know Joan would agree. She held her face in her hands through most of it, bawling. Mind you, she also cries when the postman comes late. She’s cried off and on for the past three months just thinking about this concert.

    But I’d bet big money her fellow Diamondheads would say she had good reason.

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  4. DAILY BREEZE REVIEW
    Fri Dec 21 09:44:34 2001

    Friday, December 21, 2001
    RAVE!

    Review: Diamond’s the real deal

    BY SANDY COHEN
    STAFF WRITER

    Neil Diamond is proof that they just don’t make them like they used to.

    Sure, after dozens of top hits and 35 years in the music business you expect a guy to know a thing or two about putting on a show.

    But at the Great Western Forum on Wednesday, Diamond did more than put on a show. He connected with his audience, sharing his love of music through three decades of songs that have become part of pop history.

    At a time when pop singers are little more than hyper-produced sexpots, Diamond is the real deal — a singer-songwriter with enduring talent and style. He even kicked off Wednesday’s concert with an orchestra-style overture, but it seemed an appropriate appetizer for the musical feast that followed.

    A 17-piece band, including string and horn sections, provided a rich background for Diamond’s unmistakable voice — that smooth croon seasoned with just enough rasp for a rock ‘n’ roll edge.

    Clad in black slacks and his trademark sequined shirt, the 60-year-old performer emerged from behind a giant American flag to open with his 20-year-old hit “America.” And when he sang out, “Stand up for America,” the Forum crowd rose to its feet and American flags unfurled from the top of the stage.

    “Our country is going through a terrible thing,” Diamond said. “They say music has the power to heal, and if that’s true, let the healing begin.”

    And it did, as Diamond took the crowd on a trip through his musical history, marked by bits of storytelling and an array of familiar hits.

    The audience swayed to “Solitary Man” and “Play Me,” boogied to “I’m a Believer” and “Cherry, Cherry” — his first top-10 hit back in 1965 — and cried to a rendition of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”

    Diamond refreshed his 1966 smash “Red, Red Wine” with a reggae arrangement popularized by UB40 in 1983, and proved his enduring charm with a serenade to a woman in the crowd during “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” a 34-year-old song that enjoyed new life after appearing on the soundtrack of the 1994 film, “Pulp Fiction.”

    Even songs from his new album, “Three Chord Opera,” had a familiar feel, thanks to Diamond’s sincere songwriting and classic vocal style. But it was hits such as “Forever in Blue Jeans” and “Sweet Caroline” that got the mostly middle-age audience groovin’. Seasoned by decades of popularity and memories, the songs sounded even sweeter than they did when they were first released.

    Diamond offered two special dedications during the two-hour show. He sang “Captain Sunshine” in memory of his longtime percussionist, and performed “He Ain’t Heavy … He’s My Brother,” from 1970’s “Tap Root Manuscripts,” in honor of American police, firefighters and military personnel.

    He ended the show on an upbeat note, with an encore of “Cracklin’ Rosie” and his classic concert closer, the gospel-flavored “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.”

    Filing out of the Forum, it was difficult not to wish he would have played “Love on the Rocks” and “Song Sung Blue,” or that there was a new generation of touching songwriters to whom Diamond might pass his torch.

    Neil Diamond performs at 8 tonight and Sat., Great Western Forum, 3900 W. Manchester Blvd., Inglewood. Tickets are $37.50-$67.50: Tickets: 213-480-3232 or http://www.ticketmaster.com.

    Publish Date:Friday December 21

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  5. Scott Neal
    12/21/01 Setlist
    Mon Dec 24 23:29:15 2001

    Overture
    America
    Mission of Love
    Solitary Man
    Cherry, Cherry
    Red Red Wine
    I’m A Believer
    Play Me
    Soolaimon
    If You Know What I Mean
    Beautiful Noise
    Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon
    I Haven’t Played This Song In Years
    You Are The Best Part Of Me
    At The Movies
    I Believe In Happy Endings
    Happy Birthday to Aunt Silvia (Neil’s aunt)
    Forever In Blue Jeans
    Star Flight
    Captain Sunshine
    Holly Holy
    Sweet Caroline
    1 repeat
    You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
    Yes I Will/Lady Magdelene
    Shilo
    He Ain’t Heavy…He’s My Brother
    I Am…I Said
    (encore)
    Cracklin’ Rosie
    Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

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  6. Scott Neal
    12/21 Review
    Mon Dec 24 23:33:31 2001

    Basically the same show with the following notes:

    1. He has gone back to the original arrangement of America from earlier in the tour where he sings the first 4 bars with the suspended note (“Far, we’ve been tarvling far…”)

    2. Terrible audience. Next to Dallas, it was the worst one on the tour. He had the band hold the first note for America for 30 seconds (no kidding) as the entire audience refused to stand up. It was that way all night and he was visibly working it.

    3. His Aunt Silvia was in the audience and she was celebrating a birthday so he sang “Happy Birthday” to her.

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  7. David B.
    GREAT Show
    Tue Dec 25 14:07:59 2001

    It was just as Scott Neal described. I’m glad I didn’t attend the 12/21 show! 😛
    After the first song, there were a few people in the floor section who held up a large sign that stated “PLEASE SING HELLO AGAIN”. Neil didn’t acknowledge the sign, and after a few more songs, the sign wasn’t seen again. Later, Neil mentioned he was in the movie “Saving Silverman”. He asked the audience if they saw it. He made a funny quip about how surprised he was that many people actually did see it. LOL
    On a side note, the show started about 40 minutes late. Traffic was HORRIBLE approaching the Manchester Ave. 405 Freeway exit. My wife and I have been to many events at the Great Western Forum (including past ND shows) so we took the next exit and knew all the detours to take to avoid most of the headaches. I assume the reason all of the LA shows started late was to accomodate the MANY late-comers. Traffic is always bad exiting the parking lot, so as soon as BLTSS ended, we immediately split and ran to the car! We were on the freeway within 5 minutes 🙂

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