Neil Diamond 2001-2003 Concert Reviews / Photos

Calgary, Alberta 10/2/2002

Diamond's sparkle is bright as ever
From the Calgary Herald
by Nick Lewis

Neil Diamond at the Saddledome Wednesday night. Attendance: 15,000 (sellout)

Do you remember Will Ferrell's final episode on Saturday Night Live in May, when the comedian impersonated Neil Diamond and sang Cherry Cherry?

Ferrell had all the gestures down pat -- the subtle chest thump, the long glassy stare, the slow nod to his bandmates, the blown kisses, the raised arm held in acknowledgement of his fans. And then 61-year-old Neil Diamond joined him in the studio and looked and sounded alarmingly like a weaker version of Neil Diamond than Ferrell.

There is always the fear that a nostalgic performer will not live up to his legend. Diamond had a pretty big one to live up to at the Saddledome Wednesday night. A sold-out arena of Neil fans paid up to $106.50 to hear a musician who hasn't had a hit single in years.

Not that it matters. Over nearly four decades, Diamond has managed to skate the line between populist blue-collar wordsmith and lounge-lizard schtickiness, while managing to stay clear of the kitsch territory his contemporaries such as Engelbert Humperdinck and Barry Manilow wallow in.

And the man can write a mean, mean pop tune, the kind that burrows into your head and lays its eggs.

Those songs were on showcase and more than did the man justice, as an electric Diamond assaulted every track with fervour. From the opening America, with red, white and blue spotlights trained on him, Diamond had a standing ovation that was prolonged when two Canadian flags flanked the giant stars 'n' bars floating from the ceiling.

Backed by a 17-member entourage, including a string quartet, a brass section, a mini-choir of gospel singers, a pair of keyboards and house band, Diamond sounded record-perfect on this night. He managed to turn the Saddledome into a sing-along pub night, getting close to 15,000 people simultaneously shouting "pump-pah-dah" during the encore Sweet Caroline.

A slight belly pressing against a trademark blue sequined shirt, Diamond was a girl's best friend as he crooned through Solitary Man, Mission of Love, Cherry Cherry, Love On The Rocks and Soolaimon.

During Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon, he brought a couple of young ladies out to the front of the stage, stretched out across the edge, sang softly to them and kissed each one of them.

"Is this the guy you came with?" he asked one of the women. Then, without missing a beat, he turned to her date and said, "She's ready for you now."

Yeah, it was pretty cheesy, but Diamond got away with it. At a time when most male pop singers are assembly-line products, it was pretty refreshing to see a guy who's always stayed true to himself still hit it out of the ballpark.

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