Neil Diamond: Radio 2 Electric Proms, Roundhouse, London

Reviewed by Ben Walsh

Monday, 8 November 2010

“Girl if it lasts for an hour, that’s all right/ We got all night/ To set the world right,” hollers Neil Diamond, grinning.

Uplifting sauciness doesn’t get any finer than “Cracklin’ Rosie” and the singer’s Electric Proms rendition is almost as exquisite as his live performance on Hot August Night; a double album from 1972 which features on its cover a sweaty, wild-haired and denim-clad Diamond, his hand hanging perilously close to his crotch. Here, the 69-year-old New Yorker is sweat free, neatly trimmed and dressed in black. He keeps his hands above board – indeed they’re reaching out, touching me, touching you…

Diamond is best known, unfairly, for “Sweet Caroline”, the end-of-wedding staple for the sozzled. However, “The Jewish Elvis” has an enviable back catalogue, most of which is performed tonight. He kicks off with a rousing “Beautiful Noise” and straight away you want him to lay on the cheese. All the Diamond devotees here want it. Come in, Diamond appears to be pleading, the water’s beautiful.

Indeed everything appears to be “beautiful” to this generous performer. He tells us about his “beautiful band”. They’re not. Who cares? He tells us about “making love”. It should make us a queasy. It doesn’t, it just kick-starts the gorgeous “Play Me”. He rattles off, in those sumptuously gravelly tones, “Hello Again”, “Blue Jeans”, “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” and “Cherry Cherry”. This is God’s music. You can picture a tipsy Almighty, after a particular bad day, slipping on some Diamond, probably “Holly Holy” followed by “Solitary Man”.

We’re not treated to much material from Diamond’s two successful Rick Rubin collaborations – we get “12 Songs” and “Home Before Dark” – but we do, unfortunately, get three covers (his latest, ill-judged record, Dreams, is a covers album) of “Love Song”, “Ain’t No Sunshine” and “Midnight Train to Georgia”. A sparkly Lulu joins him for “The Boat That I Row” and “I’m a Fool for You” and Amy Macdonald is in impressive voice on “Shilo”. But it feels like filler before the grand finale: “Cracklin’ Rosie”, “I Am… I Said”, “Sweet Caroline” and, a special treat, the exquisite “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show”. It’s a barnstorming, emotional performance.

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