Diamond delivers, but sticks to the tried-and-true hits
By Dan Nailen
The Salt Lake Tribune
WEST VALLEY CITY – Watching Neil Diamond’s tried-and-true delivery for his packed E Center show concert Friday, it’s clear the popular performer hasn’t lost a step since his last visit to Utah four years ago.
At the same time, the daring and risk-taking present on his popular new album, “12 Songs,” was largely missing from the proceedings.
The music on “12 Songs” is a return to his roots, a subtle collection of largely acoustic tunes showcasing Diamond’s still-kicking skills as a strong songwriter. If there ever was a time for Diamond to deliver a longer set of new work to his longtime fans, it is now, in the glow of 12 Songs’ positive reviews and strong chart performance.
Instead, Diamond seemed content Friday in providing a batch of his undeniable pop classics.
From the opening combination of “Crunchy Granola Suite,” “Desiree” and “Remember Me,” Diamond was an assured headliner, leading a large troupe of musicians and backup singers through a trip down memory lane. “Beautiful Noise” had the audience on its feet, and the troika of “Kentucky Woman,” “Cherry, Cherry” and “Play Me” was an early indication that the crooner’s gruff vocals were in as fine a shape as ever.
That weathered voice would serve Diamond well as he bounded from gentle ballad to soulful dance songs to up-tempo, bombastic anthems.
A mid-show combo of songs from “The Jazz Singer” including “Love on the Rocks” and “America” energized the crowd. “Forever in Blue Jeans,” “Holly Holy” and “Sweet Caroline” all turned into massive singalongs, as did “I’m a Believer.”
Toward show’s end, Diamond steered the show toward his roots, playing a couple of songs from his coffee-house days and, finally, a couple from “12 Songs.”
“Glory Road” and “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” harkened back to Diamond’s early days as a New York songwriter trying to pay the bills, while the sparse “I’m On To You” and upbeat “We” were strong examples of the pleasures to be found on 12 Songs.
A closing salvo of more old hits, including “Shilo” and “Red, Red Wine,” ended the night on a high for the legion of Neil-lovers at the E Center. All in all, a satisfying – if overly safe – show for an American icon.