New songs show Diamond still sparkles

New songs show Diamond still sparkles

Thursday, December 08, 2005

WORCESTER – Neil Diamond may have given the near-capacity crowd at the DCU Center what it wanted Monday night, but many in the audience didn’t know what they were missing.

During a triumphant night that celebrated his treasure trove of hits, Diamond buried two new numbers from his best album in decades 90 minutes deep into his 31-song set.

His latest disc, “12 Songs,” opened at No. 4 on the Billboard Top 100 chart – his best showing since “The Jazz Singer” in 1981. The album has earned Diamond his finest reviews since “Beautiful Noise” was released 29 years ago.


When Diamond announced he would be doing tracks from his new disc, more than a few members of the audience made the customary dash for beer or to use the bathroom.

They missed out on the chance to hear why at the age of 64, Diamond is still a great singer-songwriter.

Playing acoustic guitar, a fit and trim Diamond delivered the moody “I’m On To You” and the playful “We.”

Both were well-received, but the audience took to its feet during the non-stop barrage of Diamond classics like “Sweet Caroline,” “Holly Holy” and “I Am, I Said.”

Diamond was supported by 11 musicians and three backup singers, including Linda Press, who finds herself in the unenviable position each night of having to sing Barbra Streisand’s part in “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”

For the record, she does an admirable job.

Diamond sounded strong and fresh throughout the 2 hour and 15 minute concert, which featured pop-rockers (“Cherry, Cherry”), moving anthems (“America”) and sorrowful ballads (“Love on the Rocks”).

He was particulary generous in mining gems from his early days at Bang Records.

He delivered “Shiloh,” “Thank the Lord for the Nightime” and “Kentucky Woman,” as well as a take of “Red, Red Wine” that mirrored UB40’s interpretation and “I’m a Believer,” which was a hit for The Monkees in 1967 and SmashMouth four years ago.

While Diamond served up popular arena numbers such as “Desiree” and “Crackling Rosie,” he found time to return to his days at Greenwich Village coffee houses with “And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind” and “Glory Road.”

It’s just a pity Diamond couldn’t have squeezed in a few more recent numbers.

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