|Neil Diamond on Aug. 18, 2012.|
Before catching his concert last night, Diamond was on my short list of living artists I had not yet caught live. My initial thought is that Diamond - backed by an outstanding 11-man band and a trio of female backing vocalists - offered up an involving show that came off as an artful mix of a rousing Springsteen outing with the E Street Band and an entertaining Las Vegas-era Elvis Presley set.
But beyond that veneer is Diamond's incredible skills as an entertainer, still-mighty vocal talents and his vast catalog of wonderful songs.
Among the most powerful moments of the concert were the acoustic-flavored ballads and folk-rock songs. Diamond's vocals were emotional and authentic in "Morningside," as well as "Hello Again" and "Solitary Man." And "I'm a Believer" was at first delivered as a potent love song, sung for his wife Katie, before the song was repeated with the full force of the band in its traditional uptempo version.
At times Diamond's vocals were delivered almost as if spoken before a defining bridge or chorus would provide his clear baritone the chance to soar. Across the wide range of material - much of it pulled from his Hot August Night collection - Diamond seemed to effortlessly tap into the emotions and feelings that gave rise to the songs. Indeed, "Holly Holy" and "I Am...I Said" resonated with the vibrancy of new compositions (as opposed to the classics they are now).
Many in the crowd seemed content to wait for the show's bigger moments (clap-alongs or singsongs in the likes of "Forever in Blue Jeans," "Cracklin' Rosie" or "Sweet Caroline"), and ultimately missed out on the richness of Diamond's complete performance. It was a bit depressing to see so many aging Baby Boomers making repeated trips to get beers while missing out on Diamond's nuanced performance.
His "America" served as the first selection in the encore, and proved to be one of those perfect moments where the right song, rousing showmanship and the night itself worked together to create something magical. A Hot August Night indeed.
Main set: Soolaimon / Beautiful Noise / Forever in Blue Jeans / Hello Again / Love on the Rocks / Play Me / Shilo / Red Red Wine / Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon / Cherry, Cherry / Solitary Man / Glory Road / I'm a Believer (slow version) / I'm a Believer (original, rocking version) / And the Grass Won't Pay No Mind / Porcupine Pie / You Don't Bring Me Flowers / Crunchy Granola Suite / Morningside / Holly Holy / Happy Birthday (sung to Neil Diamond's mother) / Cracklin' Rosie / Sweet Caroline / I Am...I Said
Encore: America / Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show