NEIL DIAMOND IN JERSEY
By STEPHEN HOLDEN
March 12, 1982
LIKE a barnstorming evangelist in gladiatorial garb, Neil Diamond roared onto the stage of the Brendan Byrne Arena Monday in the first of three sold-out performances. Mr. Diamond and his eight-man band then proceeded to bring off the sort of swashbuckling extravaganza that only Elvis Presley, in his Las Vegas prime, might have attempted.
Its success was as much a matter of attitude as it was of music.
For Mr. Diamond combines the strutting machismo of a rock star with the dramatic gesticulations of a Technicolor-style Old Testament prophet. And his booming bass baritone, which can sound overbearingly oratorical on record, is a true arena voice. Thunderously commanding, rollingly theatrical, it is the most exhortatory top voice since Mario Lanza.
Mr. Diamond’s 30-song set, which included most of his hits, built to a climactic reprieve of ‘America,’ the propulsive ballad from ‘The Jazz Singer.’
In general, the songs worked better in concert than on record because of the sheer force of Mr. Diamond’s delivery. Though hits such as ‘Song Sung Blue,’ ‘I Am I Said’ and ‘Holly Holy’ don’t bear much scrutiny as pieces of craft, they boast simple, unstoppable melodies. One suspects that these songs, which fuse urban folk, Middle Eastern chant, Tin Pan Alley and rock-and-roll, will endure, like George M. Cohan and Al Jolson favorites, as much-loved pop kitsch.