Posted on Thu, Dec. 15, 2005
REVIEWS AND REPORTS OF RECENT SHOWS
By TIMOTHY FINN
The Kansas City Star
There may be times in this digital/satellite/cyber-music world when Neil Diamond feels like an eight-track tape trapped in the console of a ’68 Mustang.
Then again, there must be times, like Tuesday night, when he feels like Cheap Trick at Budokan. Or 50 Cent on MTV.
He will turn 65 in January, but Diamond isn’t spending his time playing shuffleboard or boccie ball where the sun shines year-round. Instead he has hit the road again, taking with him his thick catalog of Brill Building pop songs plus a folder of new songs from his latest album, “12 Songs.” That record was produced by Rick Rubin, who helped introduce the waning Johnny Cash to a younger, unwitting generation of music fans.
Diamond apparently needs no introductions. “12 Songs” isn’t exactly burning up the charts, yet the crowd at Kemper Arena on Tuesday (about 14,000) was significantly larger, just as enthusiastic and not much older than the crowd that showed up at Kemper two weeks ago to see/hear Keith Urban, recently ordained entertainer of the year in country music.
Chalk that surprise up to a couple of things: Diamond doesn’t tour that often, so when he comes to town, it’s an Event. Plus he can roll out as many stone-cold hits as any songwriter of his era.
His fans, young and old, come to hear those nuggets, and he indulges them, almost to a fault. His setlist comprised 28 songs, and only one was off the brand-new “12 Songs”: “Look Out,” which he didn’t perform until 90 minutes into the show.
Otherwise this event was all about his lustrous career and his many hits from other eras. Some of those songs were way more obscure than others, starting with the opener, “Crunchy Granola Suite,” written 33 years ago.
Other Diamond songs keep reviving themselves, like “Red, Red Wine,” a hit for the British band UB40 20 years ago, and “I’m a Believer,” a hit for the Monkees in the mid-1960s that was revived a few years ago by the band Smashmouth for the film “Shrek.” He performed all of those and others that are even more familiar, like “Sweet Caroline,” “Cherry, Cherry” and “I Am … I Said.”
Diamond is an unrepentant romantic, though he hardly dresses, dances or acts the part. Tuesday he wore a black shirt studded with rhinestones and snug black pants — the kind men used to order off the back pages of Parade magazine. When he wasn’t strumming an acoustic guitar, he shuffled around the stage like he was dancing against his better judgment.
Regardless of his age, his fashion, his dance moves or his very ’70s sideburns, Diamond still gets ladies of all ages to respond viscerally to his songs — from the icy break-up tunes like “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” to songs like “Play Me,” which has as much satin in its sheets as anything Usher has produced lately. It’s all about the words and the tunes, but it’s also about his scuffed-up baritone voice, which hasn’t changed much over the years.
The show lasted more than two hours. Diamond brought a large band and three vocalists with him, a team of 14 people or so. Many of them have been with him for at least a decade or two, playing the same hits night after night, and it showed: From start to end, the performance was polished and well-rehearsed; and all night, the big crowd treated him with cheery reverence.
There were several highlights: both of the songs the Monkees borrowed from him (“I’m a Believer” and “Here Comes Tomorrow”); “Cherry, Cherry” and “Sweet Caroline”; “Soolaimon,” which ignited a hearty sing-along; plus the one-two-three flourish of “I Am … I Said,” “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.”
There was no formal encore; instead he played for about 130 minutes without stopping or breaking a hard sweat — an old-school pro still living large in a young man’s world.
— Timothy Finn/The Star
Dec. 13 at Kemper Arena
SETLIST: Crunchy Granola Suite; Desiree; Remember Me; Beautiful Noise; You Got to Me; Kentucky Woman; Cherry, Cherry; Play Me; Love on the Rocks; America; Thank the Lord for the Night Time; Forever in Blue Jeans; You Don’t Bring Me Flowers; Wake Up the Band; Lonely Looking Sky/Skybird; Holly Holy; Sweet Caroline; I’m a Believer; Glory Road; And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind; Look Out, Here Comes Tomorrow; I’m On to You; Shilo; Red, Red Wine; Soolaimon; I Am … I Said; Cracklin’ Rosie; Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.