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Neil Diamond
A Concert Review/Story.
Three Years Ago
Cleveland Bound
Do You Know Where You're Going?
And It Was Time For the Show
What Did Mom Think?
And It Was Time to Head Home

October 14, 2001

The Gund Arena

Cleveland, OH

Photos from
October 8, 2001
The United Center
Chicago, IL

A Review and Photos by
The Dude on the Right
Dude note:  Once again, and I don't know what it is about my Neil Diamond reviews, but I got a little long winded.  If you don't care about why I ended up seeing Neil in Cleveland instead of Chicago and just want to know about the show, use the link above to get right to the show review.  Otherwise, read on.  Thanks, DOTR

Three Years Ago
What kind of idiot would drive like a billion miles just to see Neil Diamond when Neil also had a concert scheduled a mere 35 miles away? Me. Yes, thatís right, Iím that idiot. I drove a billion miles (alright, a little over 300), about 5 hours, across highways and byways, over some rivers and through some woods, to motherís house, just to see Neil Diamond and almost run over a cop. Iíve got no one else to blame, itís my own fault, and it all started about three years ago with a conversation with my Mom and a supplemental e-mail a few months ago.

You see, three years ago Neil Diamond was playing in Milwaukee and I told Mom I was going to drive up there to see him. At that time, oddly enough, about a month earlier, I had driven home to Ohio to see the band Korn. Because of this fact she replied, "How come you will travel five hours here to see that Korn band, who I would never want to see, but for someone who I would enjoy and you could take your mother, you don't come home." At that time Neil Diamond wasnít playing in Cleveland so I had my out, and honestly, I could have probably gotten away with seeing Neil in Chicago this time around without disappointing Mom too much, but when I found out about his tour this year I sent Mom the following e-mail: "Dear Mom, A while ago you mentioned about maybe wanting to see Neil Diamond.  He's coming to the Gund Arena in October.  I'll make the trip home if you think you want to make it to the show. Love, Dude."

I figured it would be a nice gesture but Mom would probably reply with something like "Thanks for the offer but it would be too much of a hassle. Just get tickets for Chicago instead." Yup, there I am, the good son and I donít have to worry if Iíll be able to get tickets for the Cleveland show to boot! What does Mom reply with? WellÖ "If you're willing to put up with your Mother, I should be able to go to see Neil Diamond.  After all, a tank of oxygen lasts over 5 hours and I could always have a spare if necessary. We shall see what we shall see, but it does sound good." What was I to do except set things up for Cleveland. Donít get me wrong, it really wasnít a problem heading back to Cleveland, and I also thought it would be nice to get someone elseís opinion about Neil Diamond other than Big Cooter who would have probably just been singing along while scoping out dudettes, but I was still a little concerned about getting tickets. Once that was taken care of, well, some other things began to creep up.

Cleveland Bound
Many quandaries began to develop as October 14th was approaching, mostly the fault of the Cleveland Indians, because Jacobís Field, where the Indians play, is right next to The Gund Arena, where Neil Diamond would play. First the Tribe went and did something crazy like get into the baseball playoffs. Then they scheduled one of the playoff games to be in Cleveland on the 14th, if necessary (the Tribe would have had to sweep the Mariners or vice versa for the game to be cancelled Ė yea, like the Tribe would sweep!). If things went well then the game would start at 1PM, which was fine because the crowd would be gone before the Neil Diamond show. But, if New York won, Atlanta didnít catch their plane, St. Louis tried to travel by bus, or some other weird combination of wins, losses, and travel arrangements, well, the Indians might then play at 4PM, which would have the game ending a little after Neil Diamond fans were showing up, or the game might be at 7PM which would mean both Indian fans and Neil fans would all be vying for the same parking spots. For once I was rooting for the Yankees to win so the Indians would start at 1PM and traffic and parking would be normal around show time. The Yankees won, the Indians game was scheduled for 1PM, but thanks to a 2-hour rain delay I wasted rooting for the Yankees.

So, yea, the Indians game started at about 3PM, and with the Tribe loosing big after the eighth inning all the non-diehard fans started bolting Jacobís Field just as the dude-mobile, complete with the Dudeís mom, found its way near the Jacobís Field/Gund Arena complex. 40,000ish Indians fans trying to get out; 16,000ish Neil Diamond fans trying to get in, and it sucked. Traffic was snarled, people were jumping in front of cars trying to flee the Indians game, and we got diverted the wrong way. After we got diverted Mom told me that I should ask the policeman on the corner for directions back. I passed up the policeman, Mom retorted back about asking directions, and I nicely explained to her that guys donít ask for directions Ė we just drive around until we finally end up where we want to go. So what did I do? I drove around until we finally ended up where we wanted to go, well, sort of. There was Jacobís Field again, there was a street parking lot, but had I made one more turn at the next corner I would have parked lots of feet closer, which makes a big difference when your Mom has to carry an oxygen pack around. Now I started to feel like a crappy son.

"Do You Know Where Youíre Going?"
"Do you know where youíre going?" That was the question Mom asked me many a time during our trip and way-longer-than-it-had-to-be walk as we made our way to The Gund Arena. But alas, there it was, the ticket window, and low and behold there were my tickets. I kept apologizing to Mom for parking so far away as we slowly made our way to our seats. A stop for a program (you canít tell the players without a program, and upon reading the program it mentions that proceeds from tour book sales are donated to charity so buy a program, or tour book as they call it), a stop for a Sprite, down some stairs to our seats, and it was finally time to relax a little, safe and secure in our seats, and wait for Neil Diamond. It wasnít a long wait, but Iím really glad that Neil didnít start until 8:30 because if not, well, we would have missed the beginning of the show, along with lots of other people, and I really didnít want to miss the beginning of the show.

And It Was Time For the Show
Because I took my photos at one of the Chicago shows I already knew how Neil was going to open up his show. But this time, as the huge American flag rose, the crowd on their feet, and as the band folks took there spots, I did get some chills as Neil started up with "America." But unlike the Chicago show, everyone sat right back down, even those on the main floor. Not until Neil changed the words a little, saying "Stand up for America" in place of "Theyíre coming to America," and motioning for the crowd to stand, did the crowd get back on their feet. I was a little disappointed in the Cleveland folks, but I wasnít going to let that get me down.

Neil continued on through a new song, "Mission of Love" and preceded "Solitary Man" with the statement "If music has the power to heal, let the healing begin." And he sure did his best to help the healing by doing what Neil does best Ė putting on one kick-ass show. How does he do this? Itís simple Ė he plays the hits he is known for, tosses in some new songs to let you know he isnít just resting on his laurels, and adds some little stories to go along with some of the songs.

Cases in point:

The New Songs...
Alright, so he hit on "Mission of Love" early in the show, and did his best to get the crowd to sing along with the "L," "O," "V.E." lines they werenít familiar with yet, but it wasnít until about mid-show that Neil really explained that yes, he is still writing music, and heís got a new CD out called "Three Chord Opera." It was time to spotlight a handful of songs showing Neil still has it as a songwriter, and spotlight he did through the likes of "I Havenít Played This Song in Years," "You Are the Best Part of Me," "At the Movies," and "I Believe in Happy Endings." For this portion he brought his string quartet to the front of the stage, which, yea, I was enjoying the songs, but I couldnít help but think that I should have kept up with my violin playing because, well, how cool would it be to be playing in Neil Diamondís band, and also how cool would it be to play with four nice-looking dudettes. Maybe itís time to dust off the old violin and get back to practicing!

All ogling aside, "Mission of Love" showed Neil still has it in writing up-tempo, dance and sing-a-long songs, while he showed he can still hit the soft side with songs like "I Havenít Played This Song in Years," and "You Are the Best Part of Me." This CD is now on top of my "must-get" list.

Some Short Stories...
Now we know most of Neilís storytelling is simply conveyed in his songs, but going to see Neil Diamond doesnít just mean song after song without any explanation. This show Neil kept the banter down a little from the last time I saw him (I found him maybe telling a few too many stories back then), but the stories were appropriate and helped explain a few things poignantly. The first thing that comes to mind was Neilís nice tribute, followed by the moving "Captain Sunshine", to Vince Charles, Neilís steel drum player who passed away earlier in the year. Also spotlighted was a nice story by Neil of his growing up, followed by Neil taking place in front of the piano which magically appeared (alright, not magically, but I missed it while I was paying attention to Neil and Linda Press singing "You Donít Bring Me Flowers"), letting Neil spotlight, I believe, "Yes I Will" and "Lady Magdelene."

And how could I almost forget Neilís explaining his movie roles, namely his latest in "Saving Silverman", which, yes, I was one of the two people that saw, and even enjoyed the movie. Neil showed he can tell a story without song, but with song he does it even better.

And Then There Were The Hits...
Everyone has probably got a favorite Neil Diamond song. The girl behind me couldnít make up her mind. You see, as the concert went along, as most of the songs began, she kept telling her friend "This is my favorite song!" Sure, she couldnít make up her mind, and quite honestly, as Neil went through songs like "Solitary Man," "Cherry Baby," "If You Know What I Mean," "I Am, I Said," and "Forever in Blue Jeans," I had a tough time deciding on mine.

Sure, I could say "Sweet Caroline" is my favorite, but thatís an easy choice and itís wrong. And pardon me while I digress a little on the "Sweet Caroline" thing, but, and I donít care what Neil says, Iím saying that me and Big Cooter are taking credit for inspiring him for the extended sing-a-long that he now does during the song, although I have to say Neil is doing it wrong. Iím sorry Neil, but Iíve got to correct you and I dare you to try this at your next show. You see, five years ago, at Neilís show at the United Center in Chicago, during "Sweet Caroline," Big Cooter and I added the sing-a-long chants of "Bom, bom, bom" (pronounced like "bomb" without the "b" on the end) following Neilís singing of "Sweet Caroline" during the song, and also the "so good, so good, so good" following Neilís singing of "Good times never seemed so good," the two of us inspired by our seeing a band called "The Nerds" on a trip to New Jersey.

A few people around us picked up on it and joined in, although most just leered at us like we were crazy. We then did the same when we saw Neil in Milwaukee and a few more people joined in. And now, it comes that Neil is trying to get the crowd to sing-a-long in the ways Big Cooter and I were doing years ago. Except, as I said before, heís doing it wrong. You see, Neil is trying to get everyone to say "Whoa, whoa, whoa" following Neilís singing of "Sweet Caroline" during the song, but, and The Nerds showed this, that "Bom, bom, bom" just punches the point a little better. Thatís my story of inspiring Neil, and Iím sticking to it, but, alright, honestly, I doubt he heard me and Big Cooter during those shows. But I still would like him to try the "Bom, bom, bom" thing instead of "Whoa, whoa, whoa."

Okay, so Neil worked the crowd during "Sweet Caroline" to sing outside the verses and chorus, and it did take three tries, but the crowd finally got the gist of things and brought a rousing version of "Sweet Caroline" to a close.

And "Sweet Caroline" aside, right before that came my favorite song, "Holly Holy." Years and many years of hearing Neil Diamond songs, that one is still my favorite, although if you asked I couldnít tell you why, but Iím just glad he sang it this night because there are only so many songs he can sing in one night, and you might just miss your favorite this time, but stick around for his next tour because one other thing Neil is great at is shifting his set list from year to year, like this year singing "Iím A Believer" which he sang just a little better than an animated donkey, as well as dedicating the classic "He Ainít Heavy, Heís My Brother" to all of the heroes we are now remembering are really heroes.

There wouldnít be a Neil Diamond show without "Cracklin Rosie" gettiní on board, and "Brother Loveís Traveling Salvation Show" which had Linda Press and Julia Waters getting down with their bad selves while helping out with the back-up vocals (Iím glad I donít have to dance in high heels because Iíd be flat on my face!)

And how could I almost forget Neil's antics earlier during "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon."  Neil approached the front of the stage, motioned for a dudette to come to the front of the stage, and Neil crouched down, began to serenade her, then he ended up just lying on the front of the stage, directly face to face, and the serenading took a turn towards "What is he really doing up there?"  And as the song ended and Neil just stayed, sprawled on the stage, I noticed it took a while for him to get back up.  I'm hoping he was just a little worn out and something else wasn't keeping him from getting up, or maybe he already was?  Anyway, as he finally got to his feet he mentioned how tough his job is.  Yea, it's a rough job, but Neil seems to be just the man to be able to do it.

That pretty much wraps up the show.

What did Mom Think?
As we sat in our seats waiting for most of the crowd to file out, well, I asked Mom what she thought of the show. Her biggest complaint Ė it was too loud. See, Mom isnít a Neil Diamond fan that knows all of the words; sheís a fan that enjoys his music. So, for most of the show, she was trying to listen a little more than sing along. But The Gund Arena is as much of a cave as The United Center, basically turning a show sometimes like being in an echo chamber. That coupled with the horns being a little on the loud-end and Neilís vocal being tweaked at the high-end (at least in this semi-professional reviewers opinion), well, vocals were sometimes hard to distinguish. Mom did like, though, that Neil didnít have to get fancy with fireworks and what-not, to please a crowd, and that he was just a great singer who just put on a great show. Even with the walk I made her take she really enjoyed the show.

And It Was Time to Head Home
So, Mom and I made our way back to the dude-mobile, she asked, yea, you may have guessed it, "Do You Know Where Youíre Going," and I said "Sure, I donít want to make a left turn and try to jockey over a couple of lanes to get to the I-90 ramp, so Iíll take a right and go around the block." Of course, she said, "Why donít you ask someone?" and of course, I had to reiterate that men donít ask for directions. So I take a right, stop at the stoplight, and didnít see the police officer directing traffic. The light turned green, Mom yelled at me that the cop was telling me to stop, and then I saw the nice police officer, just doing his job, and now yelling at me "What, am I fucking invisible?" (I know you have been reading this entire story/review wondering where the "almost run over a cop" would come back.) The best I could do was look sad and solemnly and mouth, "Iím sorry" through the windshield. He glared at me, I felt bad, but happily he didnít do something like give me a ticket.

Anyway, up another street, Mom was a little frazzled, so after I made the turn and was slowed in traffic, I asked the next cop (yea, like I was going to ask the cop whom I thought was invisible) how to get to the expressway. He nicely directed me straight to the sign I would have found anyway, pointing me to the road back home. I felt self-assured that dudes can always find their way, even without asking, but I just asked for directions to satisfy Mom. Yea, thatís right, to satisfy mom. Sometimes you have to bend some dude rules.

And so, I guess I apologize for the lengthy story, but sometimes just a review of a show isnít good enough. Thanks for reading.

And, oh yea, I almost forgot the rating, or rather ratings. Mom gives Neil Diamond "TWO ĎA LITTLE TOO LOUDí THUMBS UP!" Me, I give Neil "TWO ĎWHY DID I QUIT PLAYING THE VIOLINí THUMBS UP!" I doubt Neil could ever put on a show that would disappoint his fans.

Thatís it for this one! Iím The Dude on the Right!! L8R!!!

 

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