Legend lives on for Diamond fans

 

THE SUN stayed out on Saturday evening, all the better to bounce its glare off pop's gruff Diamond, and 40,000 fans were happily bedazzled. There was no warmup act at Saturday's concert at Croke Park, so it was up to Neil Diamond to turn a cool May evening into a Hot August Night. However, though Diamond tried to cook up a storm during a two hour set filled with everybody's favourite tunes, the cockles of the heart remained somewhat under done.

The problem with a Neil Diamond extravaganza is that it leans too heavily on the weight of audience loyalty, staying smug in the knowledge that, since Diamond's oldest fans have been with him right to their middle age, they're not about to leave him now. During the show, Diamond pays tribute to his faithful followers but fails to lead them any where except down the same old blind nostalgia alley.

"Hey, we're gonna reach back and do a few oldies for ya" he announces, perhaps' forgetting that nearly all his songs have long ago qualified as classic hits. Diamond dons his black acoustic guitar for Sohtart Man, then really ups his cool quotient with Girl. You'll Be A Woman Soon, blowing Urge Overkill's version right off the Pulp soundtrack.

After a double helping of Cherry Cherry and a stomping, pedestrian Beautiful Noise, the moment arrives when Diamond must "do" his new album, Tennessee Moon, which he co wrote with some of Nashville's top songwriters.

Soon, however, it's back to the hits, and Diamond gives us a version of Forever In Blue Jeans that seems to go on forever. Song Sung Blue brings everything back to simplicity, and if a campfire suddenly lit up on the central podium no one would have been surprised. Backing vocalist Linda Press joined Diamond on a duet of You Don't Bring Me Flowers, and, though her rendition lacked Streisand's diva factor, she at least earned her bouquet.

The lights came up at last for the homely and brave America, but the lasers didn't really pierce the waning daylight. Time to bring out the heavy artillery, so Diamond strafed the stadium with Sweet Caroline, then maintained his fired" with Cracklin Rosie.

The man with the rich, granite voice signed off with Hot August Night, a sort of Born To Run for middle brows. No encore was forthcoming, so we sallied forth into the chilly. May night, passing a nearby pub where the tuneless strains Of Sweet Caroline came wafting out of a Karaoke machine.