Neil Diamond celebrated a sparkling 50 years in music by doing what he always does – lifting generously from his stellar songbook with the dedicated backing of a big band of old associates, while retaining just a modest sliver of his trademark showbiz bling.
Neil Diamond ***
Diamond’s declaration that “we’re staying late and we’re rocking hard” was somewhat premature as his voice cracked on the opening Cherry Cherry. Following this slightly arthritic start, his first hit Solitary Man was dispensed with the soft touch of soulful Hammond organ and mournful brass.
Inevitably, there has been wear and tear on his belting upper range over the years and he no longer has the capacity to deliver that big melodramatic chorus of Love on the Rocks but he can still tell a story expertly. His watchword now, repeated like a mantra, is “vulnerability”.
This anniversary set was overall a muted affair but still a sufficiently satisfying blend of the sombre, thoughtful and celebratory. Song Sung Blue incited the first major singalong of the night, while Forever In Blue Jeans was a recipe for simple contentment.
Diamond dug deep into the corners of his catalogue with selections from his 1973 soundtrack for Jonathan Livingstone Seagull and album tracks from his breakthrough live recording Hot August Night which were not as familiar but certainly more welcome than the cod calypso rendition of Red Red Wine.
Classics were stored up for the end, the understated melancholy and, yes, vulnerability of I Am... I Said giving way to a party encore of Sweet Caroline, Cracklin’ Rosie and Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show.