Saturday, September 19, 2009
Neil Diamond - October 18, 2001
You can say whatever you want, but Neil Diamond is rock and roll to me. He has been a guilty pleasure for many years, and even though he’s billed as Easy Listening, if you listen to some of his earlier tunes, there’s nothing easy about them. Neil is a rocker at heart, and when I had the opportunity to see him live in concert it just couldn’t be passed up.
My girlfriend at the time and my mother were both big Neil Diamond fans, so when we had the chance to travel to Philadelphia to see him live in concert, I got the three of us tickets. I had never seen a concert in Philadelphia before and had never witnessed Neil Diamond live before, so this was going to be a truly unique experience. It was also the first concert that my mother and I saw together (as strange as that seems to me), so it was a night to remember.
We drove the two hours to Philly with excited anticipation of what the night would be like. It was a long ride but it went by fast with conversation and great music getting us in the mood for that night. The parking was simple and we were inside the arena in no time.
There was no opening act, only Neil Diamond was there to perform for us. Like Bruce Springsteen, there is no need for an opening act when Neil is coming to town. He provides everything that you need and then some. An incredible entertainer that knows how to work the crowd, Neil gets the fans involved, and puts on a heck of a concert.
Although he was touring in support of a new album of songs that none of us knew, the setlist was still filled with classic hits meant for crowd participation. He opened with America, one of his best known songs, and the night just escalated in greatness from there. Solitary Man, Cherry Cherry, Red, Red Wine, and I’m A Believer were all played within the first 20 minutes of the show! Talk about getting the night started on the right foot.
Forever In Blue Jeans was the moment of the night for me. By far my favorite Neil Diamond song, I was extremely excited when he broke that one out and sang every word as loud as I could. My mother and girlfriend joined in the sing along and the three of us were on cloud 9 without a care in the world.
The requisite performance of Sweet Caroline came toward the end of the main set. What I didn’t realize was how heavily involved the crowd sing along was for this song. I was not well versed in the crowd responsibility, but quickly caught on as to how it worked. After Neil would sing “Sweet Caroline” we would respond with a roaring “Bomp, bom bom!” To which he would follow “…good times never seemed so good” and we would shout back “So good! So good! So good!” Chills covered my entire body during this audience participation segment. It was pure enjoyment.
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Shilo, and I Am…I Said were also played to the delight of the crowd. While the new songs that were mixed in didn’t appear to be well received, the classics were much beloved and I couldn’t think of another hit that should have been played. Neil packed them all in.
The encore came in the form of Cracklin’ Rosie and a rousing rendition of Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, a brilliant way to close out the night. Neil preformed with such ferocity and love that it was overwhelming. He gave his all and even though he was in his sixties, he rocked like he was in his twenties. Just an amazing concert.
The ride home that night, unfortunately, was not as amazing. We hit construction traffic on the New Jersey turnpike that turned a two hour ride into a four hour ride. My mother had the perfect comment when she said that New Jersey is the only state you can find a traffic jam at 2 in the morning. And that’s the truth. Even though the ride home was a long one, the experience of seeing Neil Diamond in concert made it all worthwhile.
Mission Of Love
Red, Red Wine
I’m A Believer
If You Know What I Mean
Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon
I Haven’t Played This Song In Years
You Are The Best Part Of Me
At The Movies
I Believe In Happy Endings
Forever In Blue Jeans
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
Yes I Will
He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother
I Am…I Said
Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show