Diamond’s act well polished

Tuesday, December 6, 2005
Diamond’s act well polished

Entertainer uplifts crowd at DCU Center

Scott McLennan

WORCESTER– Neil Diamond extended his performance record in Worcester Monday, turning in a feel-good 28-song Diamondfest at The DCU Center.

It was Diamond’s 20th show in the building (and first since it took on its new name), and no other musical artist has played there more times.

On the one hand, Diamond is such a dependable draw because he delivers exactly what his fans want; just about every song hit the crowd like a visit from an old friend. Yet Diamond’s catalog is so vast that he can craft shows that never grow stale despite their

Just consider what Diamond did not play Monday: “Song Sung Blue,” “Brooklyn Roads,” “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon,” and “Solitary Man.”

Yet one would be hard pressed to find anyone in the nearly sold-out house complaining about such omissions. Diamond arrived upon the whirlwind of “Crunchy Granola Suite,” whipping up an exuberance with his 15-piece band that established a comfortable mood that the consumate show man sustained through a two-hour performance.

To a one, Diamond’s songs are expertly crafted, and each is quirky enough to avoid being labeled sterile pieces of pop (and those songs that do go overboard on schmaltz have largely been excised from the live show).

Diamond’s greatest strength is his ability to stir and not offend. He offered patriotism without politics (“America”); was flirty without being smutty (“Play Me”); delivered spirituality without dogma (“Jonathan Livingston Seagull Suite”); and presented philosophy without complications (“I Am…I Said”).

The concert checked in on the many phases of Diamond’s long career. He marshalled his keyboard players, horn section, back-up singers and rhythm section through youthful pop hits such as “I’m a Beliver” and “Cherry Cherry” right into the dramatic turns of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and “Love on the Rocks” and over to the unique Neilisms of “Beautiful Noise,” “Forever in Blue Jeans” and “Kentucky Woman,” songs that bend the genre rules of rock, folk, pop into tunes perfectly suited for this singer.

And with his 65th birthday coming up next month, Diamond remains a formidable singer in full possession of his bravura, which only came across as more grand in concert as he waved his arms around in triumphant gestures through every song; whatever the guy may have lost in the technical end he more than compensated for with raw confidence.

Diamond waited until late in the show before pulling out a couple of tunes from his new album, the critically lauded and commerically successful “12 Songs.” He performed “I’m On To You” and “We” seated on stool and strumming an acoustic guitar, nicely retaining the feel of the stripped-down record. And just to prove that such songs have been part of his story, Diamond led up to the new material with a few similalry fashioned older pieces, “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” and “Glory Road.”

For every step into the new or unusual, Diamond countered with the beloved and predictable. “Sweet Caroline” provided mid-show fireworks (and Diamond barked “Go Red Sox” at song’s end, acknowledging how the Fenway Faithful have adopted the tune as an anthem to be sung at every Sox home game). “Shilo,” “Red Red Wine,” “Soolaimon” and “Cracklin’ Rosie” were all effective crowd-pleasers pulled out for the concert’s closing stretch. And Diamond underscored the tent-revival feel of his own show by ending with a song about just that sort of phenomenon, “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.”

Maybe outright salvation wasn’t achieved Monday at the DCU Center, but at the very least Diamond uplifted the mood of anyone within earshot.

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