Neil Diamond performed at Key Arena on Monday, July 23, 2012.

Neil Diamond

Key Arena

Monday, July 23, 2012

"On stage, Diamond radiates the same


Neil Diamond Performs Perfectly Polished Pop At KeyArena

Neil Diamond performed at Key Arena on Monday, July 23, 2012.

Neil Diamond

Key Arena

Monday, July 23, 2012

"On stage, Diamond radiates the same excitement that has made pop stars from Sinatra to Presley, and it's a sensation that can't be described, only felt." - Cashbox Magazine, October 4, 1969 (stolen from the back of Neil Diamond's GOLD LP)

Someone with half a century of experience in anything under their belt should probably do that thing quite well, but you don't really come to a concert performance by a 71 year old person and expect them to hand your ass back to you at the end of a two hour set. There's only one Neil Diamond, though, and that's pretty much what he does on a nightly basis, million dollar smile firmly intact.

Backed by a 14-piece band, Neil Diamond essentially put on a clinic of how to do a polished, professional show without ever losing that human connection that has always propelled Diamond's music and performances. Sure, an initial scan of the room could set off a few clicks on a skeptic's schmaltz-meter. Diamond is a consummate performer, gracefully working every corner of the arena, orchestrating a crowd full of eager believers better than any politician or preacher in our time period. Hell, if he had passed around a collection plate midway through the first song ("Soolaimon"), I'd have emptied my pockets.

Neil Diamond, preaching to a crowd of believers at Key Arena.

But Neil Diamond is so much more than a performer. The man is living, breathing musical history, and somehow just continues to chug along in his own little world, unaffected by popular trends or technological changes. Diamond is one of the breakout stars of the Brill Building period, and his songs manage to blend undeniably catchy pop melodies with much deeper emotional explorations, resulting in hummable folk songs that reach far past your prototypical "Ooh baby I love you baby" lowest common denominator pop songs. He's that unique blend of a truly gifted artist and an impeccable showman, and that combination doesn't come along very often at all. Sure, Sinatra and Elvis had the showmanship down pat, but did they write their own material? Hardly. Diamond has put pen to paper on eight number one singles of his own, not to mention 37 top 40 hits (as well as who knows how many for other artists), yet he's still putting on the sparkly outfits and bringing a notoriously docile Seattle crowd to their feet, sending fists pumping to "America", sending couples into carefree swaying bliss during "Sweet Caroline" (with four refrains, no less) and reducing grown women to piles of blubbering goo, as he kneeled, crooned, and kissed a few hands during "Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon". At the crescendo of each song, Diamond locks into various poses to accentuate the final punctuation, and these moves somehow never seem contrived or forced; they electrify and dazzle. Diamond somehow never seems any less than humbled or appreciative by his audience's adoration. When the poses drop, the smile returns, and you realize that there's probably no one in the world who loves his job more than Neil Diamond does.

Sure, Diamond didn't perform anything released later than 1980 ("America", "Hello Again" and "Love On The Rocks", all from the Jazz Singer soundtrack), but who else can fill two solid hours with 24 songs that everyone has etched in their subconscious? Missing from action were a handful of classics ("Song Sung Blue", "Heartlight"), but that setlist? It was a veritable all-star game of some of the most well-crafted pop songs of the 20th century. If I may push out toward a bit toward hyperbole, Neil Diamond has done everything this side of curing cancer. HIstory and track record taken into consideration, the man is essentially past criticism. If you don't like Neil Diamond, suit yourself. That's more your fault than it is his.

Critic's Bias: Personally, I'm no stranger to dive-y karaoke bars. I've had my ears filled to the brim with Neil's catalog over my illustrious career as a karaoke barfly. It's a given that at least one Neil Diamond song will happen anytime a karaoke machine is plugged in; I'd dare say "Sweet Caroline" is the song I've seen performed most over the course of my entire life. If it were any other artist (I'm looking at you, Jimmy Buffett), the song would be wretched and callous by this point in time. Yet, somehow, it is still flawless. No matter the night or the place, it is perfect in its drunken, goofy jubilance. Even if you're in a foul mood in a shoddy karaoke bar filled with lousy singers and miserable drinks, you'll still find yourself unable to avoid chiming in when the chant hits..."SO GOOD! SO GOOD! SO GOOD!".

Neil Diamond Setlist


Beautiful Noise

Forever In Blue Jeans

Hello Again

Love On The Rocks

Play Me


Red Red Wine

You Got To Me

Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon

Cherry, Cherry

Kentucky Woman

Solitary Man

Glory Road

I'm A Believer (slow)

I'm A Believer (fast)

You Don't Bring Me Flowers

Crunchy Granola Suite

Holly Holy

Sweet Caroline

I Am...I Said


Cracklin' Rosie


Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show

I've Been This Way Before

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