Neil Diamond performing his 50 Year Anniversary World Tour at The Arena Birmingham on Friday 13th October 2017.

Images and Review by Kevin Cooper

Fifty years ago a 26 year old college dropout from Brooklyn started getting recognition for his song writing and the rest is history. Now in his 76th year, Neil Diamond shows no signs of slowing down as he entertained a packed Birmingham Arena last night and held the audience in the palm of his hand where they stayed for the whole time.

The show began with a literal large diamond spinning on the big screen behind his 13 piece backing band which showed pictures and video of the star from as long ago as the 1940s, as the band launched into In My Lifetime. Then Neil Diamond appeared from below the stage to kick off the concert with Cherry Cherry, and the crowd erupted.

The eminently likeable and truly inoffensive Diamond was in his element on the stage, appearing thankful towards the stadium of fans who had paid a pretty penny to come and see him. Delivering seminal classics such as Solitary Man, Play Me and Jungletime, he kept the momentum flowing, pausing only slightly to interface with his audience and continually thanking them for their support.

Hits such as You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, I’m A Believer, Red Red Wine delivered in the style of UB40’s hit cover, and Brooklyn Roads, a sentimental song detailing Diamond’s young life growing up in Brooklyn all followed, before he treated the crowd to a stupendous performance of the 1967 number, Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon.

He honoured his long time guitarist, Richard Bennett who had approached him in the 70s desperate to play him a guitar riff. The story goes that after some reluctance, the riff impressed Diamond so much that they immediately sat down and wrote Forever In Blue Jeans, which started last night with just the two musicians who were then joined by the entire band and the audience who were on their feet to deliver a mass sing along.

The backing band was truly wonderful. Made up of Bennett and his son Nick on guitars, there were two sisters on backing vocals, two keyboard players, one bassist, four in a fabulous brass section and two on drums. He took time to praise them and introduce them, asking each of them in turn to perform a riff, be it on guitar, voice or accordion.

But it was Diamond who was the undisputed star of the show, as he barely came up for air. There were stunning renditions of a huge array of his hits such as Love On The Rocks and the anthemic Song Sung Blue. There was a particular moving moment when he used a beautiful and heartfelt performance of Dry Your Eyes to pay tribute not only to the victims of the atrocities in Manchester and London, but also the recent massacre in Las Vegas, dedicating the song “to all the fallen angels, our hearts are with them”.

With his voice remaining as smooth as silk, and as flawlessly on pitch as he was half a century ago, he went headlong into the ending with Be, Crunchy Granola Suite and Holly Holy, before I Am…I Said had the crowd swaying and belting the words back to him.

Though the septuagenarian has slowed down, and his mic hand may shake a little, there can be no doubt that half a century later there has been no dulling of his love for performing. Even though he must have performed hundreds, if not thousands of times over his illustrious career, last night there was no lack of enthusiasm for his art that makes him so popular with his fans.

Closing the show with three encore songs, Sweet Caroline, Cracklin’ Rosie and Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, he thanked the audience and reminded them that they are all God’s children, then disappeared down the same hole in the middle of the stage from which he had appeared over two hours previously.