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Melissa B

On his golden anniversary tour, Neil Diamond still shines

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On his golden anniversary tour, Neil Diamond still shines

Call it a golden anniversary for a diamond. Neil Diamond, that is, who is celebrating 50 years as a hit recording artist with a world tour that stopped Wednesday at Scottrade Center.

Musing on the five decades gone by, Diamond told the crowd, “I was 7 years old when I started.”

He was joking, but he wasn’t off by much. Diamond, 76, started writing songs as a teenager and by the mid-‘60s was working in the famed Brill Building, cranking out tunes for various pop stars of the day. “Solitary Man,” his debut single as a recording artist in his own right, was released in 1966.

 

Diamond’s two-hour Scottrade show was packed with hits and was deeply nostalgic for fans and the artist as well. He talked and sang about his Brooklyn beginnings, recalling his home turf’s tough neighborhoods in “Jungletime” and showed old home movies (on a diamond-shaped video screen, no less) during “Brooklyn Roads.”

The hits were the concert’s main draw, of course, and Diamond delivered them in bunches, starting off with “Cherry Cherry” and moving quickly into slower, romantic fare including “September Morn” and “Longfellow Serenade.”

Introducing “Play Me,” he said: “It’s not easy for a man to come up here and make himself vulnerable. We’re supposed to be tough and able to handle it all — doing everything that’s demanded of a man, except being vulnerable in front of 12,614 people.”

If Diamond felt at all exposed — which seems unlikely — the crowd backed him up by singing along with the song’s chorus.

There were plenty of other opportunities to sing along, among them “Song Sung Blue,” “I’m a Believer” (initially a hit for the Monkees and revived decades later for the “Shrek” soundtrack) and “Forever in Blue Jeans.”

Diamond was backed by two singers and an 11-piece band that was rock-solid and unobtrusive, though the players knew when to shine, such as Larry Klimas’ saxophone solo, which stood in for Barbra Streisand’s vocal on “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” Diamond moved slowly and somewhat stiffly as he played to all sides of the stage, but his voice was strong — low and gravelly when he spoke/sang some lyrics but soaring when it needed to.

The set included a moody, brooding take on “Solitary Man,” an upbeat, rhythm-heavy “Sooliamon,” and a medley from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Diamond closed with a handful of songs he noted had appeared on his epochal live album “Hot August Night”: “Done Too Soon” (its relentless recitation of historical figures’ names an obvious precursor — and better alternative — to Billy Joel’s “We Didn’t Start the Fire”), “Holly Holy” and “I Am … I Said.”

The four-song encore kept the crowd on its feet with the requisite singalong “Sweet Caroline,” plus “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “America” and a revival-tent-raising “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” which included a plea for everyone — “black and white, rich and poor, gay and straight, great and small/We are God’s children all,” Diamond preached — sending the crowd back into the street with both a message of inclusiveness and no shortage of familiar tunes running through their heads.

Set list

“Cherry, Cherry”

“You Got to Me”

“September Morn”

“Longfellow Serenade”

“Love on the Rocks”

“Play Me”

“Beautiful Noise”

“Jungletime”

 

“If You Know What I Mean”

“Song Sung Blue”

“Forever in Blue Jeans”

“You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”

“Solitary Man”

“I’m a Believer”

 

“Brooklyn Roads”

“Pretty Amazing Grace”

“Be”/“Lonely Looking Sky”/“Skybird”

“Jazz Time”

“Soolaimon”

“Done Too Soon”

“Holly Holy”

“I Am … I Said”

Encore

“Sweet Caroline”

“Cracklin’ Rosie”

“America”

“Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show”

Link: http://www.stltoday.com/entertainment/music/reviews/on-his-golden-anniversary-tour-neil-diamond-still-shines/article_ad73552d-5bd7-5c1f-a3ba-de9df672c457.html

There are great photos at the link as well.

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