Neil Diamond at Xcel Energy Center, 7/11/12
|Photo By Stacy Schwartz|
The house lights in the arena were switched on for "Sweet Caroline," which turned into a rousing crowd singalong, as it is each and every time Neil plays the song, no matter where he goes. Diamond really stretched it out, as well, reprising the chorus three additional times, which gave all of us another chance to sing out the indelible refrain. Diamond even joked about getting the words wrong, saying "I've been singing it 'Whoah, whoah, whoah,' and it turns out it's "Bah, Bah, Bah.' I'm not even the boss of my own song any more. Let's do it one more time for me so I can get it right!"
An earnest version of "I Am...I Said" ended the main set, with Neil leaving the stage to a rousing ovation while the rest of the band remained. With the cheers showing no signs of letting up, Diamond returned to join the group for a lively rendition of "Cracklin' Rosie" which enthusiastically kicked off the encore. Diamond then took a moment to get personal with the crowd. "Over 100 years ago, a 12-year-old girl took a train from Kiev to Rotterdam, Holland. There she boarded a ship that would take her to America. That girl was my beloved Grandmother. This song is dedicated to her."
And while the over-the-top patriotism of "America" might be too blatant for some artists to pull off effectively, complete with jingoistic clip-art images of eagles and the Statue Of Liberty on the screens while red, white, and blue lighting drenched the arena, Diamond turned the number into a celebration of the endless possibility and potential that this country possesses, and everyone was rightly moved. The show probably should have ended there, for what song can truly compete with "America"? "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" certainly tried, but ultimately couldn't compare.
The show came to a close with "I've Been This Way Before," which was a touching love-letter from Neil to his passionate and supportive fans, subtly thanking them for being there throughout his long career. It was truly a tender moment, and brought the show to an elegant conclusion. Whether this was the first time someone in the arena was seeing Neil Diamond perform, or the last time they will get the chance to see him play, his soaring, uplifting anthems filled everyone with a special joy that will last a lifetime.
|Photo By Stacy Schwartz|
Personal Bias: I had always viewed Neil Diamond as being my parent's music. But after tonight, he's mine too.
The Crowd: Packed to the rafters with a nice mix of old-timers and younger fans, all getting swept away by the majesty that is Neil Diamond.
Overheard In The Crowd: Women of all ages, mothers and grandmothers, professing their undying love for Neil. With plenty of men doing that as well.
Random Notebook Dump: Only Neil Diamond can truly get away with having his own songs serve as the pre-show music in the arena.
Bonus GIF by Stacy Schwartz:
Forever In Blue Jeans
Love On The Rocks
Red Red Wine
You Got To Me
Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon
I'm A Believer (Ballad Version)
I'm A Believer (Rocking Version)
You Don't Bring Me Flowers
Crunchy Granola Suite
I Am...I Said
Cracklin' Rosie (Encore)
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show (Encore)
I've Been This Way Before (Encore)
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