Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond
By Donna K. Korando

Any fears that Neil Diamond was slowing down were dispelled quickly at Savvis Center Sunday night. The veteran songwriter, singer and showman recently garnered critical acclaim for a new CD, “12 Songs,” a beautifully produced collection of mostly melancholy ballads.

Well, banish melancholy and put your hands together, for as the band ascended section by section from below the stage, the close-to-capacity crowd rose to its feet. Through “Crunchy Granola Suite” and “Desiree,” Diamond started with a blast of energy, slowing things down with “Remember Me.” After “Beautiful Noise,” he grabbed a guitar for “You Got to Me,” “Kentucky Woman,” “Cherry, Cherry” and “Play Me.”

The last of that group, as with “Forever in Blue Jeans,” “Sweet Caroline” and “I’m a Believer” later in the concert, was an old-fashioned sing-along. Indeed, a Neil Diamond concert is old school and comfortable. You know you’re going to get a slickly produced show that will last a couple of hours with first-rate backup.

There are so many hits, however, that fans can’t know exactly what to expect. Will he sing “Shiloh”? (Yes.) “Brooklyn Roads”? (No.) You know the “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” duet with Linda Press will be just a bit overwrought. And, yes, he does the reggae version of “Red, Red Wine” after playing it straight. And then there’s that rap section, but, no, he doesn’t take that seriously.

No giant flag unfurled during “America,” but images from Ellis Island moved across the big screens, which were also used effectively during a medley from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” – material I would have jettisoned in favor of something from “Tennessee Moon.”

The “12 Songs” CD features Diamond with an acoustic guitar and a fairly subdued background. Emphasizing that this new Diamond is very old, the singer sat down with a guitar for “Glory Road” and “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” from the ’60s before doing “I’m On to You” and “We” from the new release.

The tempo picked up again before a spotlighted “I Am … I Said” and the hand-clapping, dancing-in-the-aisles encores: “Cracklin Rosie” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.”

The growl in Diamond’s baritone gets a bit more pronounced from concert tour to concert tour. But the voice was actually a bit smoother and the fire just a bit brighter than the previous time Diamond was at Savvis.

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