Neil Diamond brought some brotherly love to his traveling music show to Portland on Friday at the Moda Center and celebrated six decades of music while defying Father Time and hardly saying farewell, so long or goodbye.
A mostly over-50 crowd packed the house as Diamond enthralled digging way deep in his catalog of songs which stretch back to the 1960s, before man even stepped on the moon. The show opened with still photos and videos rotating across a diamond shaped projector screen before the real Diamond took the stage in front of his 12 member band.
Mr. Diamond is 76 years old, or perhaps that’s young, because he hardly looked, acted and most importantly sang like what the rest of us mere mortals expect from somebody closer to 100 than 50. Sure, he doesn’t move like a 30-something rocker, walks a bit gingerly at times, nor does he look like the guy gracing the cover of his hit live album Hot August Night, instead looking gentlemanly and rather dapper wearing a black shirt blazoned with rhinestones, sporting a goatee, and more salt than pepper hair. Diamond always resonated like an old soul anyway but his vocals sounded just as fresh and polished off any album from 40 years ago.
Neil Diamond indeed sounds like Neil Diamond on this 50 Year Anniversary World Tour (50 years!) as he strung off hit after adult contemporary hit starting with the grooving “Cherry, Cherry” and barely taking a breather when he wrapped the show with the patriotic “America.” It was a 26 song set that lasted more than two hours with nary a break except for a 12 minute band introduction interlude about 90 minutes in.
I grew up listening to Neil Diamond. Not by choice, mind you. He’s textbook easy listening so don’t expect quick tempos, ripping guitar solos or heavy beats promulgated by thumping bass. But when you’re beholden to mom and dad for the basic necessities of life you have little say over what plays at home on a relaxing Sunday afternoon or on long car trips.
Unless, of course, you and your brother trick mom and dad by handing them a Neil Diamond album with the cassette tape inside switched to your personal preference. It didn’t take long for them to realize “This isn’t Neil Diamond.” Though Mr. Diamond wasn’t my first or even second choice in music, he certainly grows on you overtime and attests to the narrative of how certain sounds bring a flood of memories and a chance at nostalgia. He’s no doubt an excellent musician and most certainly an even better singer and songwriter. He pulls you right in on all those childhood songs for some but for so many others perhaps forgotten romances, lost loves or wedding day memories.
He didn’t spend much time on the guitar leaving that to the musicians behind him. His voice never wavered and sounded so crisp and smooth but especially on the already awesome “Solitary Man” that hardly felt like something pulled from 1966, “Play Me” which dazzled, “Shilo” simply proved Diamond’s endurance and vocal abilities then he absolutely shined when ending the first set with a stripped down acoustic version of “I am…I Said.”
He didn’t play anything off his latest studio album Melody Road out three years ago (nor off last year’s Christmas album Acoustic Christmas) instead focused on all those career defining songs which he’s got many and a number of deep album cuts only the faithful remember like “Jungletime” a touching “Brooklyn Road” featuring home videos of his family and the rather emotional “Dry Your Eyes” which he dedicated to the victims of the Manchester Arena bombings in May.
The more than appreciative audience got an earful while Diamond sang, and a little entertainment between songs as the always charismatic singer offered a a bit of back story as introductions to some of those older tracks. Sometimes he joked, but mostly expressed gratitude in return to the years of devotion by his fans. He got people dancing on “Song Sung Blue,” and “I’m a Believer” then even his contemporaries got off the seats for the anthem “Sweet Caroline.”
Diamond began his 50th Anniversary tour in April and no it’s not the 1980s but something feels like he’s not done anytime too soon.
Neil Diamond 50th Anniversary Setlist in Portland:
- Cherry, Cherry
- You Got to Me
- Solitary Man
- Love on the Rocks
- Play Me
- Song Sung Blue
- Beautiful Noise
- Dry Your Eyes
- He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother
- Forever in Blue Jeans
- You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
- Red Red Wine
- I’m a Believer
- Brooklyn Roads
- Pretty Amazing Grace
- Be/Lonely Looking Sky/Skybird
- Jazz Time
- Crunchy Granola Suite
- Done Too Soon
- Holly Holy
- I Am … I Said
- Sweet Caroline
- Cracklin’ Rosie