December 10, 2005
Neil Diamond reprises 40 years of hits
By David Lindquist
While Friday’s conditions outside Conseco Fieldhouse were far removed from a hot August night, Neil Diamond rubbed four decades of hits together to generate steady warmth inside the arena.
The 64-year-old showman stoked the fire with pop expertise (consecutive renditions of “Kentucky Woman” and “Cherry Cherry”), personal tales of love (“Desiree” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”) and celebrations of music (“Crunchy Granola Suite” and “Beautiful Noise”).
The singer — dressed in black with silver and blue rhinestones on the front and back of his shirt — also neglected current album “12 Songs,” the Rick Rubin-produced project that’s given Diamond his highest chart action since the early 1980s.
It’s a back-to-basics gem in which the Brooklyn native summons a weathered wisdom typically associated with left-field songwriter Leonard Cohen.
New track “Hell Yeah” soars as a recap of Diamond’s career and seems tailor-made for live performances. Yet “Remember Me,” from 1978, was a fine substitute on Friday.
Diamond’s eyes, voice and body language conveyed a sense of wonder during “Remember’s” first-person pleas of an entertainer. This approach can be tedious in the hands of some, but Diamond has a knack for giving his audience what it needs.
He did much of the work during the song’s introduction, when he spoke of reconnecting with fans after being away from Indianapolis since November 2001. These were convincing words and not a cornball segue that’s heard between every song at a Jimmy Buffett show.
The acoustic guitars that dominate “12 Songs” prevent the album from sounding dated now or in future years. Several of Friday’s squealing guitar solos surely would give Rubin fits.
At the same time, Diamond’s band provided several highlights — including a saxophone solo during “Love on the Rocks,” frenzied organ on “You Got to Me” and a strong vocal showing by Linda Press on “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”
Still, there were times Diamond seemed to grasp for anything to avoid the new material. Specifically, an extended segment of band introductions was followed by a “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” medley — a lowlight of introspective overkill.
If Diamond performed any cuts from “12 Songs,” he did it too late to be included in this deadline report.
Call Star reporter David Lindquist at (317) 444-6404.