Neil Diamond 2001-2003 Concert Reviews / Photos

Winnepeg, MAN 9/29/2002

You've gotta hand it to Neil Diamond, the man knows how to make a grand entrance.

Bathed in purple stage lights and basking in a big overture moment, Diamond inspired a reception at the Winnipeg Arena last night similar to the one that giant monolith got in 2001: A Space Odyssey.

Dramatic hit America was a natural opener, even if it and the huge American flag hanging in front of the stage don't resonate with Canadian crowds with quite the same passion they must spark south of the border.

But by the time Diamond had romped through mega-hits Hello, Cherry, Cherry, Red Red Wine and I'm a Believer, the crowd was more than ready to bow down at the temple of Neil.

There was no opening act, but the 61-year-old singer-songwriter was no Solitary Man amid a sellout crowd.

"Boy we've got a lot of people here tonight. I'm told this is the top-grossing, top number of people in this building ever," he announced.

At up to $100 bucks a pop, that's not hard to believe, either. But Diamond, clad in a red sequined shirt and basic black pants, gave the people their money's worth and then some.

Sure, there's a bit of hokiness in the act -- "You are the squeaking door, I am the lubrication," he told fans early on, promising if they made noise, he'd come over and give them a little personal attention.

He didn't have to ask twice.

Up close and personal

Play Me brought a wave of adulation and he followed what was already a pretty significant greatest hits collection with Soolaimon, A Beautiful Noise and Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon.

One very lucky gal from the audience spent the better part of that last song getting up close and personal, leaping up and down in front of the stage while Diamond dropped to his knees for some first-rate tease that looked for a moment as if it might become a strip.

"Thank you, I think," he quipped later, asking for a post-flirtation cigarette and saying he had to cool down a bit by playing a few songs from his newest album, 2001's Three Chord Opera, bringing the number of decades he spanned musically during the show to five, from the '60s to the present.

Joined by a 17-piece backing band, including a string quartet, Diamond did slow it down before roaring back with Forever in Blue Jeans, bringing the crowd to their feet and then keeping them there till past press time.

Sept. 29, Winnipeg Arena.

Sun rating (out of 5 stars)

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