Neil Diamond Live: 2005
At Madison Square Garden, NYC
Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 18, 2005
On this first live experience hearing Neil Diamond, in the company of long-time, Neil Diamond aficionados, Marcella and Abe Hilfer, I was not sure what to expect, as this was also my first experience at a Madison Square Garden concert, and a first experience of a two and one-half program with no intermission. The ice dance event at The Garden did not have a raised stage and there was a sizeable intermission. On both occasions, sound was pumped to monumental proportions to add to the high energy and dynamic presentation of these productions. Tonight, Mr. Diamond sang along with his two (black then brown) guitars and a large band on congas, drums, bass, brass (sax, trombone, trumpet), vocals, rhythm guitars, piano, electric keyboard, Latin percussion, and more, including audience response. Yes, the audienceís clapping, chanting, and physical swaying added accompaniment to this memorable night at The Garden, a night for fans of all ages and lifestyles, as was apparent from our aisle seats with excellent stage views.
In addition to the band and audience participation, Mr. Diamondís image was enlarged on two screens above both sides of the multi-level stage, and much of the screen displays included videos of sunsets, a soaring and plunging seagull, coastal views, and even an American flag. This was a multi-media event as only Madison Square Garden could create, given its expansive dimensions and capacity for spectacle. Of course, Mr. Diamond is, in his own right, a larger than life figure with larger than life charisma and connection to his fans. In fact, at one poignant moment, in a soft romantic ballad, Mr. Diamond bent onto his knees and then onto his stomach, front stage, to KISS (for more than a moment) a young blonde in the front row during the music! More than one female fan was envious, Iím sure, as Mr. Diamond, mid-sixties, is just as sexy and secure as he was decades ago.
In a black-sequined outfit, with no break from the stage, Mr. Diamond belted or crooned favorites including, Remember Me, Play Me, Love on the Rocks, You Donít Buy Me Flowers, Sweet Caroline, America, Iím a Believer, Red, Red Wine, and his African genre piece, Soolaimon. From the moment Mr. Diamond appeared center, top stage, following his band and vocalists, the audience was mesmerized and magically transported to another milieu, one of pulsating optimism and emblematic patriotism. After a borough-borough accolade, ending with his hometown, Brooklyn, Remember Me was followed by soulful serenades. Fog lights, rhythm guitars, vocalist/dancers, piano, bass, and percussion joined forces to showcase Mr. Diamondís seasoned style.
Play Me, including the onstage/offstage kiss, in whispering soft motifs, was followed by Love on the Rocks. Mr. Diamond did not ignore those seated to the rear and sides of the immense stage, but, rather, walked with his mike to engage all his fans. The stage screens were artistically projected with solo musicians in jazzy black and blue. For an audience favorite, America, the image of a flying eagle and flag appeared, plus slides of immigrants, as the fans rocked and regaled along with Mr. Diamond and his band. With a reference to blue jeans, the chosen apparel of many of the fans, the audience stood again, and You Donít Bring Me Flowers soon followed.
Mr. Diamond was generous with frequent, but brief, instrumental and vocal solos, as this pumped up audience wanted him, and him, alone. Mr. Diamondís theme from the film, Jonathan Livingston Seagull, was accompanied with an extensive video of a soaring seagull, immaculate coastlines, and exquisite sunsets. This media effect was brilliantly conceived. Sweet Caroline included some of the most creative lighting Iíve ever seen, with crossed white lights behind Mr. Diamondís close-ups, all screen-enlarged. Iím a Believer was imbued with spiritualism, and Mr. Diamond found a lone chair and brown guitar for a 60ís motif.
Mr. Diamond talked and sang and appeared, at this time, to be creating a new ďlone starĒ image, just the singer, guitar, and his memories, mostly of romance. Red, Red Wine, a ballad with an upbeat, swinging rhythm, was cause for a lighting shift to red, green, and yellow. African congas and vocalists went wild, and a prominent African genre enveloped the stage with Soolaimon, as vocalists donned African costumes and screen close-ups. The event ended with a dynamic blitz of encores. Neil Diamond is swinging and rocking these days, and his voice and stage presence are as vibrant and vital as ever. According to the Hilfers, this was ďa glorious eventĒ.
Check www.TheGarden.com for upcoming concerts, sports, and special events at Madison Square Garden. Before or after the event, or anytime youíre in the neighborhood of Madison Square Garden or Penn Station, stop at Mustang Harryís, for dinner, drinks, or snacks, with a lively bar, open late for your convenience. Ask for Deidre, and tell her you saw them on RobertaOnTheArts.com.
Madison Square Garden, Opening Night of Neil Diamond
Photo courtesy of Roberta Zlokower