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Neil Diamond, Odyssey Arena Belfast, review: 'Vestiges of greatness in his repertoire'

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Veteran crooner's folksy stridency and wattled, lounge-lizard charisma carries the audience along, writes Ed Power

 

post-7-0-74577700-1435710752_thumb.jpg

 

By Ed Power

 

11:40PM BST 30 Jun 2015

 

 Neil Diamond is not wildly revered in the fashion of contemporaries such as Burt Bacharach or Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. However, he has never exactly been uncool either – one of the reasons super-producer Rick Rubin failed at his mission to rehabilitate Diamond with 2005's stripped-down 12 Songs album was that the crooner's reputation didn't require rescuing in the first place.

 

Instead, the composer of several of the late 20th century's enduring soft pop anthems exists in curious isolation – beloved by his considerable fan base but otherwise a marginal presence, an icon who casts an oddly diminished shadow. He continues to tour and record yet already feels like a figure out of history.

 

That's despite an often formidable catalogue, which he negotiated at a breezy canter on the opening date of a new UK tour. Witnessing the throaty, crowd-pleasing Red Red Wine and Beautiful Noise reprised by Diamond's rambunctious backing band, it seemed remarkable the 74-year-old's stock is not higher – even a tune as superficially throwaway as I'm A Believer, originally a hit for The Monkees, was revealed to be an ingenious marriage of the upbeat and the autumnal.

 

Dressed like Austin Powers's groovy grandfather, the sequins on his tight-fit trousers glimmering under the spotlight, Diamond furthermore defied the unofficial rule that veteran performers must turn grumpier with age (see Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young etc). As the set teetered during a mid-period drift into lesser known numbers, he remained endlessly smiley and animated - wattled, lounge-lizard charisma carrying the audience along.

 

post-7-0-42150600-1435710857_thumb.jpg

 

 That slouching charm also obscured the cracks and warps in a voice that, after six decades in the business, is no longer the burnished instrument it once was. Then, Diamond was never adored because of his technical virtuosity or his dad dancing (a tradition he was championing before the concept was even recognised). His appeal was always grounded in the dash of his songwriting which, without ever tipping towards melodrama or portentousness, runs the gamut of human experience.

 

Indeed, there are arguably vestiges of greatness in his repertoire. Have another three and a half minutes of pop articulated the perspective of the underdog as searingly as I Am… I Said? Who else could tenderly address a teenage girl's growing pains – as Diamond does on Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon – without coming off an inveterate creep?

 

He finished with I've Been This Way Before, a Sinatra-esque power-ballad from 1974. A cheesy troubadour warbling about life's cruelties and contradictions sounds like a fast-pass to middle-of-the-road purgatory. But Diamond's faith in the material was unbending and his folksy stridency short-circuited the listener's cynicism. Suddenly you were a true believer too.

 

Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/live-music-reviews/11706980/Neil-Diamond-Odyssey-Arena-Belfast-review-Vestiges-of-greatness-in-his-repertoire.html

 

I hate it when writers add snark to try to be cool or whatever their reason.  -Melissa

 

 

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Veteran crooner's folksy stridency and wattled, lounge-lizard charisma carries the audience along, writes Ed Power

 

attachicon.gifNeil-Diamond-belfast-concert-10 .jpg

 

By Ed Power

 

11:40PM BST 30 Jun 2015

 

 Neil Diamond is not wildly revered in the fashion of contemporaries such as Burt Bacharach or Brian Wilson of the Beach Boys. However, he has never exactly been uncool either – one of the reasons super-producer Rick Rubin failed at his mission to rehabilitate Diamond with 2005's stripped-down 12 Songs album was that the crooner's reputation didn't require rescuing in the first place.

 

Instead, the composer of several of the late 20th century's enduring soft pop anthems exists in curious isolation – beloved by his considerable fan base but otherwise a marginal presence, an icon who casts an oddly diminished shadow. He continues to tour and record yet already feels like a figure out of history.

 

That's despite an often formidable catalogue, which he negotiated at a breezy canter on the opening date of a new UK tour. Witnessing the throaty, crowd-pleasing Red Red Wine and Beautiful Noise reprised by Diamond's rambunctious backing band, it seemed remarkable the 74-year-old's stock is not higher – even a tune as superficially throwaway as I'm A Believer, originally a hit for The Monkees, was revealed to be an ingenious marriage of the upbeat and the autumnal.

 

Dressed like Austin Powers's groovy grandfather, the sequins on his tight-fit trousers glimmering under the spotlight, Diamond furthermore defied the unofficial rule that veteran performers must turn grumpier with age (see Bob Dylan, Van Morrison, Neil Young etc). As the set teetered during a mid-period drift into lesser known numbers, he remained endlessly smiley and animated - wattled, lounge-lizard charisma carrying the audience along.

 

attachicon.gifNeil-Diamond-belfast-concert-11.jpg

 

 That slouching charm also obscured the cracks and warps in a voice that, after six decades in the business, is no longer the burnished instrument it once was. Then, Diamond was never adored because of his technical virtuosity or his dad dancing (a tradition he was championing before the concept was even recognised). His appeal was always grounded in the dash of his songwriting which, without ever tipping towards melodrama or portentousness, runs the gamut of human experience.

 

Indeed, there are arguably vestiges of greatness in his repertoire. Have another three and a half minutes of pop articulated the perspective of the underdog as searingly as I Am… I Said? Who else could tenderly address a teenage girl's growing pains – as Diamond does on Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon – without coming off an inveterate creep?

 

He finished with I've Been This Way Before, a Sinatra-esque power-ballad from 1974. A cheesy troubadour warbling about life's cruelties and contradictions sounds like a fast-pass to middle-of-the-road purgatory. But Diamond's faith in the material was unbending and his folksy stridency short-circuited the listener's cynicism. Suddenly you were a true believer too.

 

Link: http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/music/live-music-reviews/11706980/Neil-Diamond-Odyssey-Arena-Belfast-review-Vestiges-of-greatness-in-his-repertoire.html

 

I hate it when writers add snark to try to be cool or whatever their reason.  -Melissa

 

 

I agree with you Melissa.  I'm not too crazy about this article in general.  Maybe it's me, but I think it's done in rather poor taste. 

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