August 12, 2017
- In My LIfetime
- Cherry, Cherry
- You Got To Me
- Solitary Man
Neil Diamond’s exhilarating concert at the Forum on Thursday night was the 34th time that he had performed at the venue, the most by any artist in the history of the arena.
But that impressive number – which will grow by one when Diamond wraps up the American leg of his 50 Year Anniversary World Tour there on Saturday – 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 went 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.
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 created by acoustic guitars and four horns to a potent 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.
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.”