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Concert Reviews:
Diamond Delivers A Hot (Almost) August Night At The Palace
 

By GARY GRAFF
Of the Oakland Press

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AUBURN HILLS -- There's probably nobody better to spend an almost hot August night with than Neil Diamond -- at least as far as those who trooped to the Palace of Auburn Hills on Thursday night (July 31) were concerned.

As dependable as most Rasheed Wallace three-point shots, the veteran pop icon, still handsome and healthy looking at 67, returned to the Detroit area for the first time in three years with a typically smooth and career-spanning performance, taking a bit over two hours to survey all aspects of his 42-year recording career. That there were more than a few empty seats even as a banner hung from the Palace rafters commemorating 16 sellouts at the arena did not diminish the excitement for either Diamond or his particularly enraptured breed of fans.

Diamond and his 14-member band -- including three backup singers and a four-piece horn section -- stretched from exuberant, early rock-styled hits such as "Cherry Cherry," the Monkees-popularized "I'm a Believer" and "Kentucky Woman" to the excruciating schmaltz of "Love on the Rocks," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers," "Song Sung Blue" and "Man of God." Playing on a clean, sloped stage sporting a series of movie risers for the musicians, Diamond saluted the 35th anniversary of his landmark "Hot August Night" live album with a powerful rendition of the album's opening tandem of "Crunchy Granola Suite" and "Done Too Soon."

"Forever in Blue Jeans," meanwhile, was held to its trim original length, while the big audience participation moment moved to "Sweet Caroline," whose last chorus was reprised twice as the Palace crowd sang along seemingly louder each time. And on Thursday Diamond also figured out how to effectively couch the overwrought "I Am I Said," sandwiching it between the sentimental "Brooklyn Roads" -- which featured home movies and photos of his childhood on the two video screens flanking the stage -- and the always satisfying "Solitary Man."

The best news of the night was that Diamond had some potent new music to play for his fans, plucking four songs from his "Home Before Dark" album and carefully morphing what were austere studio recordings into affecting full band arrangements. He kept the title track delicate with acoustic guitars and woodwinds but muscled up "Don't Go There" and mined a more pronounced Latin groove for "Pretty Amazing Grace." And "Hell Yeah," which closed the main portion of the show, gently bowed to a stirring conclusion.

Encoring with "Cracklin' Rosie," the anthemic "America" and the tent-show exuberance of "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show," Diamond achieved the rare feat of keeping fansfrom making the typical mad dash to the parking lot to avoid traffic. Nobody in this crowd, it seemed, wanted to miss a note of Diamond and his "Beautiful Music."



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