Saturday, August 12, 2017

Neil Diamond delivers a record-setting 'Hot August Night'

August 10, 2017 marked the 34th time that Neil Diamond had performed
at the Forum in Inglewood, California. Photo: Robert Kinsler
Neil Diamond's exhilarating concert at the Forum on Thursday night (Aug. 10, 2017) marked the 34th time that he had performed at the venue, marking the most performances by any artist in the history of the arena.

Neil Diamond and his band at the Forum on Aug. 10, 2017.
Photo: Robert Kinsler

But that impressive number  which grows by one when Diamond wraps up the American leg of his 50 Anniversary World Tour there on Saturday (Aug. 12)  was only a side note to the famed singer-songwriter's rousing performance before a sold-out crowd in Inglewood.

With no opening act and Diamond taking the stage at 8:30 p.m., this was a performance that never felt rushed, but rushed by far too fast. Over the course of 130 fast-moving minutes and two dozen songs, Diamond's performance (where he was backed by a terrific 11-man band and two outstanding female backing singers) was the perfect retrospective to his celebrated career. This was yet another 'Hot August Night' marked by joyful anthems, soft rock hits and introspective ballads introduced and delivered with a master's touch. Although his songs have been recorded (and often yielded commercial hits) for artists ranging from Elvis Presley and the Monkees to hard rock pioneers Deep Purple, this was a night where the focus was on Diamond alone. 

Neil Diamond in action at the Forum.
Photo: Drew A. Kelley
Diamond, 76, continues to sing with a voice that has the range and elasticity featured on his beloved recordings of the 1970s and '80s. Highlights came early and often, from the Latin-tinged soundscapes that enveloped his warm baritone on "You Got To Me" and stirring take on his first hit "Solitary Man" (recorded in February 1966) adorned with a sonically-rich soundscape courtesy of acoustic guitars and four horns to an acoustic-styled "Play Me" that found the audience singing along in every chorus. 

There was a cohesiveness and flow that blended the diverse mix of songs. Well-known hits such as "Red Red Wine " (a mega-hit for UB40 in 1983), "Song Sung Blue," "I'm a Believer" (a 1966 hit for the Monkees), "Forever in Blue Jeans" and "Holly Holy" would frequently be accompanied by the generations-spanning crowd clapping or singing along, or using smart phones to capture memories of the familiar favorites. When Diamond delved into deeper cuts such as the rock-styled "Jungletime" or reflective "Brooklyn Roads" (a song he delivered to the visual accompaniment of a parade of images and old movies taken of his family while he was growing up in Brooklyn, New York), the audience was thankfully attentive and locked into the arc of the concert. There were obvious cheers when Diamond did a mini-set of tracks from his iconic Hot August Night 1972 live album, the standout being "I Am...I Said" that yielded an extended standing ovation.

Neil Diamond near the end of his performance on
Aug. 10 at the Forum. Photo: Robert Kinsler

No Neil Diamond concert experience would be complete without a spirited finale. This night offered that courtesy of a radiant "Sweet Caroline," cheerful "Cracklin' Rosie" and tribute to his immigrant grandparents' journey to the U.S. more than 100 years ago, "America," the latter capped with Diamond warmly telling the crowd "Thank you Los Angeles and God bless America."

Review by Robert Kinsler

No comments: