Concert Review: Neil Diamond Proves Age Is Just A Number

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:

  1. Cherry, Cherry
  2. You Got to Me
  3. Solitary Man
  4. Love on the Rocks
  5. Play Me
  6. Song Sung Blue
  7. Beautiful Noise
  8. Jungletime
  9. Dry Your Eyes
  10. He Ain’t Heavy He’s My Brother
  11. Forever in Blue Jeans
  12. You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
  13. Red Red Wine
  14. I’m a Believer
  15. Brooklyn Roads
  16. Shilo
  17. Pretty Amazing Grace
  18. Be/Lonely Looking Sky/Skybird
  19. Jazz Time
  20. Crunchy Granola Suite
  21. Done Too Soon
  22. Holly Holy
  23. I Am … I Said
  24. Sweet Caroline
  25. Cracklin’ Rosie
  26. America



11 thoughts on “Concert Review: Neil Diamond Proves Age Is Just A Number

  1. That’s a great review. I’ve been reading all his reviews and you at least know who he is and his history. You appreciate him. I’ve been a fan since the 70s. I’m 75 from Houston.

  2. I have loved Neil Diamonds singing forever, your review was truly awesome! I have allot of his tapes and have seen him and wish I could have this time but just unable to. His songs are with me always, once again thank you for your review loved reading it.

  3. You nailed it — relating length of ND’s career to the moon landing. Wow! I’m 49, listened to this with mom and dad as well — on 8 track. Hot August Night — Holly Holy put me there Friday night. And I wanted Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show so badly – but maybe next time.

  4. I’m going to see the great man in October, in Birmingham, England. I am 83 and have waited a lifetime to see him. My son, half my age, is accompanying me, and he adores him too. Such a legend. No one comes close to him . Like everyone else I can never thank him enough for all the pleasure he has given me over the years. He will live on forever, a lovely man and a wonderful singer.

  5. Excellent review, Drew. Diamond 💎is forever. 🕺🏻 🎤 🎸 🎶. 💙💕👏🏻

  6. Thank you so much for your terrific review. All that I have read about this tour is amazing &I I’m so thrilled to be seeing him on 8/10/17, here in sunny Southern California. My brother & I are going, we’re both in our late 50s & we also grew up listening to Neil’s sultry voice. Little did we know at that time, Neil Diamond’s songs/music would be a big part of the soundtrack of our lives. I know we’re in for a treat & what an unforgettable night it’ll be.

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