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- August 1, 2005
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Neil Diamond
A Concert Review

September 15, 1996

The United Center

Chicago, IL

A Review and Drawing by
The Dude on the Right
Neil Diamond is so cool. If you don't believe me, just as the 60,000 some odd fans that saw him play three shows in Chicago. And I'm also told he has a "nice ass," at least that was the opinion of the lady in front of me who screamed that revelation to her friends behind me as Neil was singing "Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon." But, I'm jumping the gun here in this review - let's start at the beginning.

Making our way into our seats, Big Cooter and I seemed to be the only ones in our section that didn't seem to know everyone else. Alright, I'm exaggerating a little, but people were passing pictures of their pets, talking about their families, and Big Cooter and I just sat there expecting to see a bunch of older people coming to a show of music that both mine and his parents liked. Boy were we wrong. From the teenage kids in their "grunge" outfits in the front row to the elderly folks hanging out in the rafters, this place rocked all night. As Big Cooter put it, "These old folks are a more lively crowd than a bunch of the concerts I've seen lately, well, except maybe AC/DC!" Yep, from the opening to the closing I realized what Neil Diamond is all about and it is about being so cool.

 
Neil Diamond - In the Round!
Neil Diamond - In the Round!
Anyway, I'm sitting there, checking out the stage. This was definitely an "in-the-round" set-up, not like George Strait's show I had seen a couple of days earlier. The technical person in me was noticing the flags rolled up above the stage, the laser mirrors around the round, and these red, rectangular things hanging from the light truss. As the show went on my guess was that those things were infrared transmitters for the band's headphones (well, I've been duly corrected via e-mail. It seems, and I have it from a pretty good authority, that those "red, rectangular things" are receivers for the sensors for the device which aims the followspots to the right place - wow, the engineer in me sure loves those technical answers!), but I digress. An announcer comes on saying the show will be starting, and sure enough, the lights went down and the first thing I noticed was this big mosquito net coming down over the stage. I know the little bugs were a pain this summer, but this concert was sure going to suck if Neil and the boys took cover inside this net. But, just as disappointment was starting to set in, the lasers kicked in to a way-cool light show on this mosquito net as the band made their way to the stage. In eager anticipation the crowd was on their feet and when Neil's head poked his way out of the tunnel the place just went totally nuts. I think it was louder than during a Chicago Bulls introduction, even with Michael Jordan. These people were insane. So much for kicking back to the melodic sounds of Neil Diamond!

Neil's voice this night seemed a little rough, but through the two hours it held up nicely. The show touched on nearly every time-frame of his career: From his earliest material to a lot of songs from his latest album "Tennessee Moon." The new music was received nearly as well as the classics, and Neil showed that he can change a little with the times as his new stuff has that traditional Neil sound with a little bit of country mixed in. Me thinks I might just have to try to swing by my CD store and pick up the CD and let you know a little bit more about it, but, we'll see. This show was as much about the new as it was about the old.

It's kinda funny to see how the words to a song change their meaning as you get older. Case in point. The last time I heard "Play Me" I think I was about ten years old. Back then, as a kid, you just sing the song not knowing what the words meant. But, I'm at this concert and Neil sings "Beside my bed" to which some woman screams out almost like having an orgasm. Neil almost lost his composure, and I started listening to the lyrics. Wow, with a little bit of wondering and knowing a lot more than a ten year old, this song can really be construed with some sexual references. Wow, maybe that's what my dad meant when he told my mom to come to the bedroom and listen to "Play Me." Wow, my parents were sick!

Enough of those thoughts, what about the rest of the show. It was really kinda cool seeing the teenagers singing all of the words to Neil Diamond's songs. It was really kinda cool seeing the older people having one hell of a time, and it was really cool remembering just why I like Neil Diamond. From "Forever in Blue Jeans" (which Big Cooter tells me he always thought the lyrics were The Reverend Blue Jeans), to "Song Sung Blue" which had the crowd singing and swaying along, Neil Diamond is a great performer and a great songwriter, even if his lyrics stretch the cuteness boundary a little. And would the show be complete without "America?" Not on your life. From the opening of the songs through the flags unfurling, certain songs bring a pride in where you live, and this is definitely one of them.

By the near-end of the show, Neil never even got to leave the stage to come back for the encore. The deafening crowd wouldn't even let him get down the stairs so he comes back for a rousing "Cracklin' Rosie" and "Sweet Caroline" during which we taught some of those around us the proper places to sing "Bum, bum, bum" and "so good, so good, so good" (it's a Nerd's thing).

I always heard Neil Diamond was a great performer but usually just kind of figured this guy walking around a stage singing familiar songs to some fans. Was I ever wrong. Neil Diamond works to reach every person. Neil Diamond works to put every feeling into every song. And Neil Diamond is just so cool.

Yea, you can guess, it's TWO BIG GIANT THUMBS UP for the Neil Diamond man. He's got a great band (alright, the band intros were a little long, kinda slowed things down a little, but Neil picked it right back up after they were done), his voice is still great, and this man really know how to work a round stage which is not the easiest thing to do. I now know what I've been missing all these years. Go see him - you might find it too!

That's it for this one, I'm The Dude on the Right. L8R!!!

A P.S. to the review: I hope the artist rendition kind of gives you a feel for the stage set-up at the show. I was also going to try to draw a picture of, as the one lady put it, his nice ass. I tried - it came out really lousy. So, ladies, just picture in your mind a nice ass in black slacks and there you have it. DOTR

 

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