It’s always a kick to hear a song performed by the person who wrote it even if another artist was the one who recorded the definitive hit. Hearing Neil Diamond sing “I’m A Believer” Thursday night, Feb. 16, in Blaisdell Arena is a perfect example.
When the Monkees released their hit version, back in the mid-’60s when Diamond was still better known as a songwriter than a recording artist, the song was a youthful celebration of complete romantic fulfillment. Sung by Diamond on Thursday as an introspective ballad, and without the keyboard riff that was the musical hook in the Monkees’ hit, the song was steeped in weariness and a sense that being a “believer” might not be enough to guarantee life-long happiness.
“Red Red Wine” — a minor hit for Diamond in the ’60s that is known to two generations of “island music” fans in Hawaii as a Kapena hit — was also recast. A young man with a broken heart might find temporary solace in a bottle of wine. Diamond, who celebrated his 71st birthday last month, sang it with a world-weary stance of a man who knows that alcohol will only defer the pain.
“I Am…I Said,” a Top 5 hit for him back when he was 30, has aged beautifully. The sentiments are more relevant than ever, and the emptiness and alienation that comes with feeling “torn between two shores” ever more powerful as years and decades pass.
Time passed quickly at the concert. Diamond performed for a solid hour and 40 minutes. He shared an assortment of his chart hits and personal favorites. Almost all of them were instantly recognizable.
“Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good)” was greeted with ecstatic applause and then became an instant sing-along. Diamond didn’t need to ask the crowd to sing, the fans were ready to go. They did the “So good! So Good! So Good!” chant on cue as well.
And, just when it seemed the “good times” were over and it was time to do some other song, Diamond called on the band for “one more reprise!” — and then called for another.
That wasn’t necessarily a bad thing. Most of the crowd seemed in the mood to sing “Sweet Caroline” all night.
Diamond had fun playing with the crowd. A well-timed comment — “You give away your age when you don’t get up and dance” — got almost every one on their feet, if not actually dancing.
Another announcement — “This show is about me going where the noise is” — got people in all parts of the arena screaming at him to come their way.
Diamond, consummate professional that he is, directed some of his attention to the people off to the side of the arena and those in the upper level seats as well.
He opened the evening with an expansive arrangement of “Soolaiman (African Trilogy II)” that presented that well-known song as a triumphant anthem. “Forever In Blue Jeans” also had a bit of extra energy to it; Diamond didn’t have to cue the audience to clap along, the arrangement was irresistible.
Diamond fans with tickets for Saturday’s show can expect to hear “You Got To Me,” “Hello Again,” “Cherry Cherry” and “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon” as well.
Even in a show full of big hits and memorable moments, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” was something special. Diamond sang it with one of his backup female singers standing in for Barbra Streisand. They captured the raw, tragic emotions perfectly; the lighting effects were simple but eye-catching.
When Diamond and his singing partner finished the song, the headliner explained that men and women experience the song differently when he does it in a concert. Women experience the tragic lack of communication between the man and woman in the song. Men experience it by looking past Diamond and his singing partner and they “wonder how (the tech people) make those (stage) lights work!”
The encore rocked. Diamond opened with an up-tempo rendition of “Cracklin’ Rosie,” then introduced “America” with a short story about his grandmother’s arrival from Russia more than a century ago. He dedicated the song to her.
“America” would have been an excellent finale. Diamond took the energy level higher with a zesty arrangement of “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” that brought the intensity of a modern “tent show” revival to the arena. It was remarkable work, and an excellent concert.
Diamond will do it again Saturday night, Feb. 18.
Sure wish I could have been there.
Melissa, Thanks for the update. Enjoyed reading it. Sounds like all went well as we wouldn't expect otherwise from him. Although, it does seem as though he may be slowing down a bit as far as the timing goes re the concert. But, then again I don't know anyone who does not experience slowing down as they get older. I do hope when his tour is completed in Sept. that they come out with a new DVD. That's what I'm waiting for!!!
Wow sounds like it was a great Show Mellisa, Hawaii is Gorgeous I was stationed there in the Army many years ago..
but back to Rude people, that is so STUPID.....That people are like that, just to go and Drink...and get up and down is rude,They just do not appreciate a great entertainer giving his time to them...In all the shows I have seen him here in L..A..Cali....the crowds are great ,everybody stays in there seat do not leave or get up,unless u have to go restroom,
but there all Great FANS HERE WE LOVE NEIL.....Even when I saw him at the Greek Theater the same We Love Neil no
rude crowds here this is His World and Home......
Everybody seems to be talking about how Neil is getting older and the length of the show being shorter because of that fact. Has anybody wondered if maybe one of the reasons is because everybody else in the show is getting older too? Some of them are about the same age as Neil--and not everybody is the Energizer Bunny like Neil is. Just a thought. Sounds like a great show--wish I could see it, but alas, I won't be able too. Hoping for some good YouTube this coming summer! Thanks for the article Melissa, it was great to read!
Its true that we arent energizer bunnies like Neil, but we dont need to be! It takes a lot less energy to clap and wave, than to do what Neil does!! I dont think energy is totally linked to age, Neil clearly still has it in abundance, but I never had high energy levels even when I was much younger.
I've wondered the same thing. There are at least a few members of the NDRRT who are older than Neil as well as some the same age.
Right, that's what I meant. Neil's band is getting older too. Maybe some of them can't do 2 hour shows anymore and Neil seems to be a very loyal person so he might not want to retire anyone from his band just cause they can't keep up with him anymore. Just a thought!
He is a great entertainer I saw him in Australia in 2011 he was fantastic 3 and a half hours he put on for us my uncle went to every show when he came to ozzie land but its sad that in 2011 my uncle said that he would not see neil any more he passed away that year in october 6 we had neils songs played at his passing helo and beautiful noise i do hpoe neil comes back to ozzie land soon love sharonxx
You were lucky to see 3 and 1/2 hours, so he can still do the longer shows! I really hope the US shows I see will be 2 hours, the tickets are so expensive so I wouldnt like less than 2 hours!
So sorry to hear about your uncle, Sharon. It's always hard to loose a loved one! You have my sympathies. But it's great he was able to see Neil one last time. I'm surprised that Neil and his band did a show that was over three hours in length. You sure you didn't hit the wrong key? Hope you get to see him again! Hugs, MM