Diamond shines in return to Green Bay

The voice was impeccable, ”The Jazz Singer” poses endless, the black suit subdued in its sparkle and ”Sweet Caroline” perhaps never sweeter.

Neil Diamond’s long-awaited return to Green Bay proved worth the four-decade wait, even if his twice-postponed concert was up against what he called ”a good show on television.” Any preoccupation with election-night results, however, melted away somewhere between the collective goose bump moment of a stirring ”I Am, I Said” and an uninhibited ”Forever in Blue Jeans” dance-a-thon.

It’s hard to recall a Resch Center crowd that has been more engaged, more absolutely giddy over a sing-along than the 9,058 voices and sets of swaying hands that took the reins of ”Sweet Caroline” on Tuesday night. It was magic. It felt ”so good, so good, so good” that when it ended, a laughing Diamond methodically surveyed fans of all ages who surrounded him on all sides of the bowl and … darn if he didn’t launch into the song one more time. Points for breaking the concert rulebook on the one, and bonus points for not squirreling the song away for the predictable closer.

One of the most successful touring acts of the last 40 years, Diamond can still put out when it comes to an arena-sized show that snaps, crackles and pop-rocks. His 11-piece band and three backing singers – several members whom have been with him for decades – helped drive songs like ”Cherry, Cherry” (the conga solo killed), ”I’m a Believer,” the horn-infused ”Solitary Man” and an apropos ”America” for the encore.

His muscular voice in fine form and his acoustic guitar always within arm’s reach, Diamond tackled gentler fare off his new ”Home Before Dark” release, effortlessly wringing every nuance out of the title track and ”Pretty Amazing Grace.” With only his own accompaniment on guitar for ”Hell Yeah,” it was hard to imagine that his voice could’ve sounded any better when he played Green Bay in the 1960s than it did then.

Still a rock star at 67, he made his entrance 15 minutes late for a seamless performance that ran an hour and 45 minutes. He worked a sprawling, slightly sloping stage that looked like the deck of a massive ship. When you’re Neil Diamond, you don’t clutter it up with bottled water; you drink from four crystal goblets strategically positioned on stands around the stage.

His signature arm gestures were many and his every move seemingly calculated to garner screams. Worked every time. He slow danced with himself in the shadows of the stage during ”Love on the Rocks” and for real with backup singer Linda Press on their duet of ”You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”

A masterful entertainer, he made sure to get around to the back of the stage to serenade those with seats behind it on ”Play Me.” A small home plate-shaped platform connected to the front of the main stage moved him slowly from one side of the arena to the other. When you’re Neil Diamond, there’s no need to break a sweat.

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