If Neil Diamond suffers from anything, it’s a catalog that is far too extensive to fit into a single concert, even one that runs 25 songs and pushes two hours.
It’s not that his 50th Anniversary tour kickoff (which played to a full, if not quite capacity crowd at Fresno’s Save Mart Center) wasn’t filled with hits. The set opened with “Cherry, Cherry” and “I’m a Believer” and ended with “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “America” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.” He played “Song Sung Blue” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and an extra-extended sing-along version of “Sweet Caroline” (because, of course).
But for those like myself, who grew up on (if not with) Diamond’s music, there was plenty that got left out. “Shilo,” for one, and “Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon,” and “Thank the Lord for the Nighttime,” “Red, Red Wine.” You get the idea.
Of course, these are the thoughts as you’re heading back out to the car after the show.
While he is on stage, Diamond is captivating, playing both side of the arena with a shuffle step and a smile and a gravelly-voiced “thank you” after every few songs. His movements are stiffer than they once were, and while the voice is still unmistakably Neil Diamond (on the stellar “September Morn” for example), it has changed.
The songs have obviously been rearranged to accommodate the fact, and the overall tempo of the show is slower than it might have been at Diamond’s 1970s heyday. That was totally obvious on the should-be rocker “Solitary Man.”
At 76, Diamond shows his age. Judging from the multitude of voices (both men and women) professing their love for the singer throughout the evening, both the man and his music have aged well.
▪ Diamond’s backing band (close to a dozen players, including a full horn section) was stellar.
▪ Every time Diamond spoke, I flashed to Will Ferrell’s “Saturday Night Live” impressions.
▪ Getting into the arena was noticeably slower than normal.
▪ #tweetcaroline is the best hashtag ever.
▪ Sometimes, you’d like to know the story of people in the audience. For instance, the two guys dressed in Diamond attire – sequined shirts and tight jeans.
▪ Just before the show, there was a quick in-case-of emergency announcement. As if we were on an airplane. Playing to the demographic?
▪ Note to the guy sitting one row up. Yes, the lady behind you was screaming. A lot. And yes, it was loud. That was no excuse to be a jerk and berate her. #ruiningitforothers
Setlist 4/7/17 Fresno
- “Cherry, Cherry”
- “I’m A Believer”
- “September Morn”
- “Longfellow Serenade”
- “Love on the Rocks”
- “Play Me”
- “Beautiful Noise”
- “Jungle Time”
- “If You Know What I Mean”
- “Song Sung Blue”
- “Forever in Blues Jeans”
- “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”
- “Solitary Man”
- “Brooklyn Roads”
- “Pretty Amazing Grace”
- Medley from “Jonathan Livingston Seagull”
- “Crunchy Granola Suite”
- “Holly Holy”
- “Done Too Soon”
- “Holly Holly”
- “I Am, I Said”
- “Sweet Caroline”
- “Cracklin’ Rosie”
- “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show”