Date / Venue: Monday October 19th, 2015 - Vector Arena, Auckland
Ever since I can remember music in my life time I can remember Neil Diamond's music featuring somewhere in it. Sometimes it was consciously with songs like, 'Kentucky Woman' and 'Sweet Caroline'. And at other times I was completely unaware that other bands like The Monkees with 'I'm A Believer' and 'Red Red Wine' which UB40 took to number one in the 80's, were performing his songs too. Neil Diamond is revered by many song writers as an incredible wordsmith. Respected by many singers as a world class performer with that distinctive baritone sound that hasn't changed in more than 40 years. He has clearly established himself, over the many years, as being one of the greats and now, just moments away, he will be lighting up yet another stage to another sale out crowd but this time at the Vector Arena. I with the thousands of others, some new to the Diamond scene and many other's, who by the cheering and pure excitement, are veterans of many Neil Diamond experiences. Here I sit waiting to be among their numbers as this Country-Rock legend takes the stage.
Diamond takes the stage dressed in 'groovie' 1960's come glamour age outfit which for some reason never seems to date, and launches right into a classic hit, 'I'm A Believer' which establishes the 'Rockn'Roll' part of his style, for those who weren't convinced. The crowd, understandably goes wild. What is it about that song? I myself have covered that song in bands as long as my own musical history stretches back, and audiences never seem to tire of it. In fact it's appeal is as strong now as I could ever remember it. He follows this up withDesiree. A song for those who are not necessarily fans, but seem to recognise as anthem or hit that you should be able to sing along to. And that's exactly what happened. Come the chorus and I promise you, the whole crowd was singing in perfect pitch to what could have sounded like, to any foreigner, New Zealand's national anthem. That being said, I could just about say the same for any of the songs performed. 'Love On The Rocks' was not necessarily one of the iconic songs that established Diamond as a star, but it is certainly a song that shows the power of the ballad and the craftsmanship of the wordsmith. I don't know if ballads are everyone's 'cup of tea' nor love songs of tragedy and broken hearts but I like to keep an open mind and although the pace of the performance had changed a gear, the energy was still on the rise.
What can I say about a concert by one of the greats that can't be said by simply listing some of the songs from the formidable catalogue that made him a great? 'Hello Again' , 'Pretty Amazing Grace', 'Kentucky Woman'and 'Solitary Man' were the next on the set list. If you are a fan then I need not say anymore, but even if you were not, you were easily taken away with the share musical ability of the band backing Neil and the articulate performances of such well crafted songs. And if we are honest, it was never the fashion statements nor tinsel town attractions of Neil Diamond that endeared audiences but rather, the skill in crafting tunes, telling stories and performing them. And might I say at this point, Neil Diamond has 'still got it'! If you were to check out any of his work on Youtube from the early recordings, you will know what I'm talking about. For someone in their mid-seventies he has remarkably maintained that classic singing voice.
'Girl, You'll be a Woman Soon', 'Red Red Wine' and 'Shilo' were also among the many hits performed. Each unlocking an emotion or memory from the past and each still as enjoyable as the first time I really started to appreciate the talent of the man. If I could say nothing else about this concert except this, it would be to say how timeless these songs are. Some of them like Red Red Wine which was written back in 1967 still has it's appeal today. And not only as a UB40 song but in Neil's own original version too.
Diamond, who I should also mention, was not only the consummate performer but also the consummate gentleman throughout the night. He kept the audience entertained with humour and back stories for some songs, and took us on journeys down the memories of one travel by so few. Perhaps some of the up and coming singer song writers could take a note or two from Mr. Diamond to see what is to be a performer? Not a lot of them have been around as long as him and stayed so popular. And what a repertoire! I wasn't counting, but I can tell you that the songs kept coming and coming and what was so astonishing for me was the amount of songs that I knew. He must have performed close to thirty songs?
In his encore he had been saving some of the very classics which I had almost forgotten about because of the sheer number of songs he had already performed. 'Cracklin' Rosie', 'America' and of course 'Sweet Caroline'.'Turn On Your Heart Light' was the final song which brought a fantastic night of heart felt songs to a conclusion which really highlighted Neil Diamonds illustrious career.
The concert was very entertaining and we, the crowd, found this living legend of music all that we had hoped for. A performance that not only celebrated the past, present and continuing era of Neil Diamond but also of one that celebrates the timelessness of what a great song can be and is. Thank you Neil Diamond for a thoroughly enjoyable night.
Neil Diamond's NZ tour continues with limited tickets still available for the Vector Arena in Auckland on Wednesday October 21st & the Forsyth Barr Stadium in Dunedin on Saturday October 24th- more info a twww.daintygroup.com
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