Neil Diamond Diamond Shines in Red, White and Blue

Pop legend Neil Diamond staged a triumphant return to LA’s Great Western Forum—where Diamond holds the house record with 25 sold-out concerts—filling the packed hall with a mix of hits, early songs and memorable performances.

The mostly Baby Boomer crowd roared as the singer-songwriter was unveiled behind a giant American flag and opened with his Top Ten patriotic anthem, “America.” The Brooklyn-born star was all glitter and passion, his face a catharsis for his music. When Diamond replaced the chorus with “Stand up for America!” fans did. Diamond also closed with “ America,” following two encore performances, as Old Glory was unfurled.

Elegant staging, top musicians--especially the saxophone player and the string quartet--and Diamond’s precise timing made the show nearly flawless. Yes, he’s older, but Diamond sang such hits as “Forever in Blue Jeans” as if each was new and he included a few songs off his new album, “Three Chord Opera.” One of those songs, “At the Movies,” was the show’s only clunker, getting lost in its melodrama.

Thirty years of making pop music makes for a concert that’s bound to disappoint some fans, but “Song Sung Blue,” one of Diamond’s #1 hits, seemed sorely missing from the playlist. Still, Diamond’s powerful renditions of “Play Me,” “Yes I Will/Lady Magdalene,” and “Sweet Caroline,” easily the night’s biggest crowd-pleaser, kept everyone smiling and clapping along. How the man can keep making “I Am...I Said” sound fresh is an incredible achievement, but Diamond did, sitting on a stool and giving the song a toned down touch.

Diamond’s stage chatter included a tribute to his late percussionist, Vince Charles, and a salute to our troops at war—which was enthusiastically received with a standing ovation—but the night’s most personal comments came when Diamond talked about discovering the piano as a tool for storytelling and introspection while he was delivering parcels in New York. Then he sat down and did what Neil Diamond does best; he played the instrument and poured his heart into the song.

This 2001 concert review was published in the Los Angeles Daily News.

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