Neil Diamond - Manchester Arena
Neil Diamond live? Is that still OK? There may be a few sniggers and some funny looks from friends and family. Easy listening radio in human form and heartthrob to "women of a certain age", unlike contemporaries like Paul McCartney or Elton John Diamond still inhabits the twilight world of not being quite cool enough. Yet people forget just what a huge catalogue of great songs this man has (many made famous by other performers), so dismiss him at your peril - he has the tunes, the chops and the charisma to still deliver a first-rate show.
Sauntering onstage Diamond seems as youthful and dashing as ever. Starting things off with 'I'm A Believer' (a smash hit for The Monkees) the two hour plus show is a doozy of a trip down memory lane. Classic after classic rolls by: 'Kentucky Woman', the beautiful 'Play Me', 'Forever in Bluejeans', as well as those tunes made famous by others which Diamond reclaimed for his own that night. Songs like UB40's 'Red Red Wine' and 'Girl, You'll Be A Woman Soon' as performed by Urge Overkill for the Pulp Fiction soundtrack.
Throughout the show Diamond is charming and funny, and surprisingly self-depreciating. "I love hearing the girls shout my name," he tells the crowd, "it makes me feel 70 again." Halfway through the set he asks for the audience's indulgence while he performs a few songs from his new album Melody Road, knowing full well it's the hits people want. Yet he needn't have bothered apologising as it is one of the evening's highlights, the standouts being the adorable 'Something Blue' and 'The Art of Love' which Diamond informs us took five years to write "but only three minutes to sing."
It was soon back to the crowd pleasers. 'Song Sung Blue' (replete with full crowd sing-a-long), 'I Am...I Said' and a rousing rendition of the fabulous 'Cherry Cherry' during which Diamond introduces his stellar backing band. "And you also need a first rate lead singer" he quips. "One that can hit all those high notes, sing with passion....but he couldn't make it so they got me instead."
Ending the marathon set with 'America' and the sentimental 'Heartlight', Diamond bids us farewell looking genuinely moved by the rapturous cheers from the crowd. A reminder then being great is better than being cool.
I'm a Believer, Love on the Rocks, Hello Again, Pretty Amazing Grace,
Kentucky Woman, You Got to Me, Girl You'll Be a Woman Soon, Play Me,
Red Red Wine, Beautiful Noise, If You Know What I Mean, Brooklyn Roads, Shilo,
Nothing But a Heartache, Something Blue, The Art of Love, Song Sung Blue, Forever in Blue Jeans, Cherry Cherry, Crunchy Granola Suite, Holly Holy, I Am ... I Said
Cracklin' Rosie, Sweet Caroline, America, Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, Heartlight