Neil Diamond | 12.11.05

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Savvis Center, St. Louis (December 11, 2005)

On the road to promote his latest album, 12 Songs, living pop legend Neil Diamond stopped by St. Louis to reflect on his impressive career and introduce his legions of fans to some new songs. The first thing I noticed about the crowd is how, er, mature the attendees were. There were two couples sitting in front of me discussing how they didn’t understand how anyone under 40 could attend this concert, seeing how there is no way that “the youngsters” could appreciate Diamond’s music. Did I just experience reverse ageism? I am under 40 and I love Neil Diamond.

Shrugging off the hurtful comment, I turned my attention to the man of the hour. His opened his set with the toe-tapping “Crunchy Granola Suite,” and the crowd welcomed the pop icon with open hearts and thunderous applause. Even this jaded concertgoer was impressed with the outpouring of love and enthusiasm coming from the crowd.

After Diamond pulled out a few more crowd favorites, like “Desirèe” and “Beautiful Noise,” it seemed the audience was in store for a nostalgic walk down memory lane. Diamond kept the hits coming—and the hands clapping—as he tore through some of his biggest hits, including “Kentucky Woman” and “Cherry, Cherry,” infusing these “oldies” with a shot of pure, show-stopping adrenaline.

Oddly, Diamond performed some of his biggest hits from The Jazz Singer—arguably one of his greatest albums—early in the set. That album’s famous tear-jerker “Love on the Rocks” was followed by that same album’s climactic show-stopper, “America.” Aware of their patriotic duty, the entire crowd stood and pumped their fists in unison.

But as enthusiastic as this crowd was, I was surprised to see how fickle they became when Diamond finally delivered a couple songs from his critically acclaimed new album—the thoughtful and heartfelt standouts “I’m On to You” and “We.” While the crowd suddenly looked to be recovering from emergency Botox treatments, I found myself more impressed with Diamond’s new stuff than with his classic hits.

As the songs kept coming, I began to wonder: “Does this man ever get tired?” At age 62, the answer is a defiant no. Delivering monster hits like “Forever in Blue Jeans,” “Holly Holy,” and a somewhat tepid version of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” I was wondering if he was running on Energizers.

Closing strong with “Red, Red Wine” and “Cracklin Rosie,” the show’s grand finale managed to create a reaction that even “America” would have trouble topping—Diamond preaching like a man on fire with his gospel-pop rave-up “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.”

Thirty songs and a Bob Costas sighting later, I headed home understanding why millions of fans flock to Neil Diamond’s shows: While there may be a little dust gathering on the shiny shirts, the man remains an astonishing and one-of-a-kind performer.

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