Neil Diamond 2001-2003 Concert Reviews / Photos

Toronto, ONT - September 26-7,  2002

Forever Diamond

Singer, 61, delivers with legendary schmaltz & love songs

From the Toronto Sun

It's a different world than when Neil Diamond last played here -- way back in 1998 at Maple Leaf Gardens.

So perhaps it was no surprise the Brooklyn-born singer's post-9/11 patriotism, bolstered by his New York roots, was on full display last night at the Air Canada Centre in front of 16,000 fans.

An enormous U.S. flag graced the stage of the 61-year-old performer's sold-out show and was raised right before he opened the evening with -- big surprise -- America.

As an added incentive for applause, he also dropped two Canadian flags down in the middle of the song, adding later of U.S./Canada relations: "It's amazing. We're joined at the hip. We're real brothers."

Make that brothers and sisters given the high number of adoring female fans in the crowd.

Then Diamond, who also mentioned the overwhelming U.S. support for the Canadian figure skating team of Sale-Pelletier during this year's Olympics scandal, did something truly surprising. And worth some real applause.

He took a shot at both government's shoddy treatment of aboriginal people saying: "It's like they got together and said, 'Let's really screw these people.' "

That, would you believe, was followed by Hello Again.

As far as Diamond's legendary schmaltz factor went, it was disappointingly low early in the evening -- his black sequined shirt tucked into his black dress pants notwithstanding.

His initial treatment of some of the classics from his 35-year songbook sounded downright orchestral as Diamond's eight-piece band was joined by a four-man horn section and four-women string section.

But then those same four women who had earlier looked so serious playing their stringed instruments got up to shake like go-go dancers during Diamond's '60s pop gem, Cherry, Cherry, and the show finally moved into a higher gear.

Among the highlights were Diamond's delicious delivery of his so-called "sensitive man song," Play Me, and his personal serenade during Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon, which saw him lie down at the front of the stage to croon into the face of a blond woman who -- at one point -- stretched out an arm to her male companion behind her. To be rescued perhaps?

"Is that the guy you came with tonight?" Diamond asked afterwards, before adding to him: "She's ready for you now."

Also good were near-religious versions of Holly Holy, Sweet Caroline, Shilo and I Am ... I Said, not to mention his set-ending You Don't Bring Me Flowers with his female back-up singer taking on Barbra Streisand's role, and the feverish encore numbers Cracklin' Rosie and Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show.

This current tour is ostensibly in support of Diamond's latest album, last year's Three Chord Opera, but he only played a handful of new tunes from that over the course of two hours and twenty minutes.

It was just as well because you better believe most people came to hear Solitary Man, I'm A Believer, Love On The Rocks, Beautiful Noise, Forever In Blue Jeans, and every other Diamond hit I've already mentioned.

Diamond plays a second show tonight at the same venue.


Air Canada Centre

'Slow-Boiling Schmaltz'


Sun Rating: 3 1/2 out of 5

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