Backed by a 14-piece band (including three background vocalists), Diamond showed why, during the ’90s, he was the biggest concert draw in the world behind only U2. There’s no denying the guy can put on a show.
Neil Diamond is a unique singer-songwriter. Who else in the past 50 years was associated with such diverse a group of people? Diamond wrote with Ellie Greenwich and Jeff Barry of Brill Building fame, Robbie Robertson of the Band and Burt Bacharach.
Diamond’s songs have been covered by the Monkees, Deep Purple, Barbara Streisand, UB40 and Urge Overkill. He appeared in “The Last Waltz” and played himself in a Jack Black film, “Saving Silverman.” More recently, Diamond’s two Rick Rubin–produced albums (especially 2004’s “12 Songs”) were both highly acclaimed. What else? Oh yeah, he’s also had THIRTY-SEVEN Top 40 hits.
He didn’t play all of those hits, but he played almost all of the right ones. Diamond’s well-paced, two hour set opened with “Soolaimon,” followed by “Forever in Blue Jeans,” “Love on the Rocks,” “Play Me” and “Hello Again,” all demonstrating why Diamond is the third-largest-selling artist in Adult Contemporary history (behind Elton John and Barbra Streisand).
His raspy voice was in fine form throughout “Red Red Wine” (performed in a subtle reggae style). He followed that with a string of his Bang Records hits (“You Got to Me”, “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” “Cherry, Cherry”, “Kentucky Woman”). They rocked and brought the energy level way up.
This was just the first hour or so. Bigger hits followed. “Solitary Man” (horns crushed on that), back-to-back versions of “I’m a Believer” — one slow take (dedicated to his new wife, whom he joked he’d liked to say, he’d written about her, but she wasn’t born yet when he wrote it) and knocked that back with the more familiar Monkees-like version.
The hits continued with “Holly Holy” and the recently-revived favorite, “Sweet Caroline,” sung along by the crowd, Fenway Park-style. His regular set concluded with the deeply personal, angst-ridden (it was the 70s) “I Am… I Said.” No matter his age, Diamond’s voice was solid throughout, his stage mannerisms as polished as they were 40 years ago.
The encore included Diamond’s first No. 1 hit, “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” which was all but interrupted with Diamond’s plea to reach out and help the victims of the Aurora shooting. Diamond donated the evening’s sales proceeds from the merchandise booths to the victims. A class act by a class act, in what was absolutely a first-class show.
Mike Long is a Longmont-based writer and comedian and a regular contributor to Reverb.
Ryan Dearth is a Denver-based photographer and a new contributor to Reverb.