You can say what you want about Neil Diamond but you can’t deny that there’s a little bit of class underneath all that sequinned, hair-sprayed cheese. From his thinning grey hair down to his soft-shoe shuffle, pumps the blood of a showman and after what must be tens of thousands of live shows he still wants you to feel his appreciation. But there is still a lot of cheese to get through, that’s not going to change.
‘Forever in Blue Jeans’, ‘America’, ‘I’m A Believer’, ‘Red Red Wine’, ‘The Art of Love’, ‘Sweet Caroline’, ‘A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You’, ‘Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon’, and ‘Hello Again’ are the hits and he plays them. They are good and so they should be, anything less would have been unthinkable and let’s be honest, for the average non-devotee of the Brooklyn crooner there would be no other reason to see him live. His voice is unmistakable and now irrevocably moulded by time. He is 74 years old after-all (“all this screaming from women makes me feel like I’m 70 again”, well played, sir) but he isn’t here to win over any new fans or set the world on fire, he’s here to wheel out the classics and give us the chance to sing along freely and passionately. The video montages during ‘Brooklyn Roads’ and ‘Coming to America’ are diced and spliced home movies depicting a very young Diamond playing with his parents and sibling and tell the tale of his family’s migration to the US. As the reel catches up with real time, a greying, older, more contemplative vision of him is shown. It portrays Diamond in a light you might not actually have considered previously and the measure of poignancy it gives the songs is not to be discounted. Underneath all the schmaltz you’ll see the life of an extraordinary songwriter and do not be surprised if it alters how you’ll hear his music.
He might not be everybody’s cup of tea, and there is probably an element of sneery disregard for a man you can imagine your Grandmother saying something like “he’s very nice” about. But he still records new music and it still sounds like Neil Diamond, so you have to ask yourself what’s wrong with him hamming it up for his audience? What’s wrong with enjoying these songs which are undeniable classics? Sure if Fleetwood Mac, The Who and AC/DC can shamelessly engage their shtick at their age, why can’t Neil Diamond? Afterall, he is possibly the only artist ever to have his work covered by both Elvis and The Fonz.