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Concert Reviews:
Neil Diamond gives DTE fans a hot July night
 

By GARY GRAFF
for Journal Register Newspapers

» See more SOUND CHECK

INDEPENDENCE TOWNSHIP -- A hot July night provided a good opportunity for Neil Diamond and his fans to remember "Hot August Night."

The singer's landmark live album turns 30 this year, and while his concert on Tuesday, July 3, at the DTE Energy Music Theatre -- his first show there since 1986 -- was not intended as a formal tribute, the anniversary was clearly on his mind. He mentioned the 1972 set before playing its opening number, "Crunchy Granola Suite," and Tuesday's show featured a dozen songs that also appeared on the album, from hits such as "Solitary Man," "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon," the emotive "I Am..I Said" and the carnival barker gospel of "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" to aficionado favorites like "Done Too Soon," "Shilo" and the overreaching "Soolaimon (African Trilogy II)" suit that opened Tuesday's show.

The offerings certainly went down well with the near sell-out crowd at DTE -- a faithful following that, of course, would be happy if Diamond sang a random selection of tweets. But the rains that marked much of the day stayed away (the heavens apparently like Diamond, too), and the up-close and personal touch of DTE gave the 23-song, 100-minute show a cozy, almost casual folksiness while still conveying the slick professionalism that's Diamond and his 14-piece band's stock in trade.

Diamond's post-"Hot August Night" work certainly got its airing, too, though he largely ignored anything from the past three decades or so. Ballads such as "Love on the Rocks," "Play Me," "You Don't Bring Me Flowers" and "Hello Again" kept the swoon factor high, of course, while "Glory Road" remained a genuine thoughtful bit of reflection.

And then there were The Moments, those totems of maximum showmanship that are as much a part of a Diamond show as sequins and rhinestones. During the exuberant "Cherry, Cherry" he had every member of his band take a solo -- and then repeated the exercise. He delivered a slowed-down arrangement of "I'm a Believer," the hit he wrote for the Monkees, then, telling the crowd that "in my heart of hearts I want to do it as a rock song," cranked it into a Vegasy swing. He reprised the singalong "Sweet Caroline (Good Times Never Seemed So Good)" twice, while "America," which Diamond dedicated to his immigrant grandmother, had a little extra power on Independence Day eve.

"I've Been This Way Before," meanwhile, was an appropriate show closer. Whether it was his return to DTE or remembering his most popular album, it was a comfortable and familiar night -- and the Diamond heads would not have it any other way.

Send your thoughts and comments to Gary Graff

 



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