Diamond hasn’t lost dazzle with devoted fans

Legend sticks to classics at ipayOne concert
By Nina Garin
December 23, 2005

The greatest thing about Neil Diamond, even better than his sideburns, just has to be his red and black sequined outfits.

No, wait.

It’s definitely how he looks out at, and waves at, the crowd while he serenades it, the way he did when he performed Wednesday night at the ipayOne Center at the Sports Arena.

During Diamond’s 25-song set, the legend, as people were calling him, was sweet and gracious. He was all smiles, too, as he walked around his sparse but modern stage, waving at the screaming Diamond-ites.

After 40 years of making music, Diamond drew a crowd of 13,000 – and they weren’t all as old as you’d expect.

Sure, it was a predominantly baby boomer night. But among the graying hairs were plenty of kids in braces and even more thirtysomethings singing into water-bottle microphones.

Some fans showed their devotion by wearing shiny shirts of their own. Others made paper Diamond face cut-outs and held them over their faces (even though it blocked their view).

And most everyone got up and danced in the aisles, especially during spirited versions of “Sweet Caroline” and “Forever In Blue Jeans.”

Wait . . . now it’s clear.

For sure the very best thing about Diamond is how, at the end of every song, the 64-year-old singer posed with dramatic jazz hands. If any other performer finished a song with a theatrical point to the sky, it would look pretty ridiculous.

But not when Neil Diamond does it.

Instead, you start waiting for the hand point. Will it be to the left? To the right? Maybe to the ground?

After a while, a great song like “Love On the Rocks” just isn’t complete until Diamond stands under the blue spotlight and adds his trademark hand flourish.

What can you expect, though? A veteran performer like Diamond knows what his crowd wants, and he enthusiastically gives it. Which could explain why, despite having just released a new and critically acclaimed album produced by Rick Rubin, Diamond stuck to the classics during his show.

Instead of playing his new, more delicate material, his hour and 45-minute set was a mix of syrupy ballads – “Play Me” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” – and over-the-top pop gems – “America.”

During that song, from the Diamond-starring film “The Jazz Singer,” he gave a speech about his grandparents, coming to “the land of the free” that was more inspiring than any political rally. While he sang, video images of immigrants arriving at Ellis Island and pictures of a soaring eagle played on the screens above.

Though Diamond’s raw-throated voice isn’t as buttery live as it is on his early albums, and he doesn’t carry tunes as long as he once did, he definitely knows how to work around it. He peppered the show with plenty of funny anecdotes.

And best of all, Diamond took lots of strolls around the stage, waving at all those people who still, and forever will, love him.

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