At times the song selection equated to an inconsistently paced show. Fans leapt to clap along with “Forever in Blue Jeans” and then immediately plopped down for the timeless “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” with saxophonist Larry Klimas playing the Barbra Streisand role on his instrument.
But Diamond fans are a patient, loyal group and they were primed to relish every moment of what is likely the 76-year-old musician's final major tour (
he last played Atlanta in 2012
After all of these years, he’s still a likeable cat. He might have the patter of a practiced showman, but he clearly respects and appreciates his fans, evidenced by the frequent kisses blown and hand placed over heart in gratitude.
Indeed, a Diamond concert is a reliably polished exhibition of song craft that barely exists anymore.
Sunday’s concert wrapped the first month of his tour, and at this point, Diamond’s voice remains hearty, with the prominent grit that has always given it character and texture.
His superlative band – including the great Ron Tutt, 79, still anchoring the crew on his drum kit – overpowered him a few times (“September Morn” and “If You Know What I Mean,” in particular), but for the majority of the show, Diamond commanded the mic.
His distinctive speak-sung delivery, employed primarily on ballads including “Love on the Rocks” and the set-closing “I Am…I Said,” is an effective approach that makes for an intimate exchange between a performer and his audience members. When he’s gesturing with a hand, eyes twinkling above his neatly trimmed gray beard, it feels as if Diamond is telling a story to every individual audience member, whether it’s during the sweetly nostalgic “Brooklyn Roads” (paired with home video footage of young Neil and family) or the musically layered “Crunchy Granola Suite.”
Of course, Diamond wouldn’t be allowed out of a venue without performing “Sweet Caroline,” which effectively launched a four-song encore and was greeted with expected fervency (“So good! So good! So good!”). Adhering to a give-the-people-what-they-want approach, Diamond and the band offered a couple of chorus reprises to appease the crowd before moving on to “Cracklin’ Rosie.”
Diamond's performance closes a weekend trifecta of shows in Atlanta that also saw durable catalog kings
pack their respective venues.
It’s fair to wonder, as Diamond winds down his stellar career, who will be standing in their places 30 years from now?
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