Saturday, August 25, 2012

Neil Diamond's Hot August Night 40th Anniversary Performances

5800 senior citizens showed up last night at the Greek Theater in Los Angeles’ Griffith Park for a reunion, the revival of Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show, also known as the 40th Anniversary of the Neil Diamond Hot August Night Tour at the Greek Amphitheater.

Neil Diamond started a world tour 40 years ago with Hot Night in August 1972 with a live recording at the Greek. Today's audience came to relive the experience. Thus, they left their canes, walkers, and wheel chairs outside. They came in their BMW’s, Mercedes, and Lexus.’ They did not look for the tree seats this time. They are the survivors who came to reaffirm their belief in the man.

An age limit was apparently imposed on the audience – no one seemingly between 12 and 40 was allowed in unless they were working for the Greek. This concert is for the geezers. We have money to spend and memories to enjoy.

He returned for 5 nights this August to reprise The Hot August Nights as part of a new world tour. The August nights may have been hot 40 years ago, and certainly last week, but the heat wave broke. It was 66 last night during the concert. The only ones hot were Neil and his band.

Neil Diamond asked how many were here 40 years ago? Almost all raised their hands, just like 5 million say they were at Woodstock.

Much has changed in the past 40 years. The Greek has been shrunken and enlarged. Rows of bright red seats sit on steel bleachers – not your normal amphitheater architecture. The steel matches the hip and knee replacements, stents, and pace makers in the crowd.

The crooner has also changed. He’s now 71, not 41. He’s simply not capable of performing some of the athletic skits he was known for. He no longer performs back to back shows or 10 straight nights as in decades back.

He’s on his third wife, marrying on April 21, 2012 43 year old Katie McNeil. She must be doing something right because he was on stage for 2 hours and 20 minutes without an intermission. He can still sing, even if he can’t carry all of the notes of the past. View this tour as his extended honeymoon.

Neil Diamond is no longer A Solitary Man. His band and backup singers today consist of 14 musicians. Behind them was a conductor leading a strings band of about 20. The music though did not drown out the singing unlike other performers who will remain unmentioned, but instead highlighted the greatness of Neil Diamond's songwriting and composition talents.

He’s doing his best to revive the American economy.

He doesn’t perform new songs. Why should he? He has a gold mine of great songs, unlike most of today’s performers who have one or two hits which will not survive for decades.

Nor can he perform all his hits in a concert. There are simply too many.

He sang many of his classics, Shilo, Cracklin’ Rosie, Soolaimon, Kentucky Woman, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Girl, You’re Be a Woman Soon, Holly Holy, Cheery Cheery, Forever in Blue Jeans, Play Me. One song he sang five times, Sweet Caroline. It’s his most famous song today, known to many sports fans because it has become an anthem sung at games (albeit as of a few days ago not at Penn State). He performed it five times last night, a few more times than needed.

For the fourth round he called up a friend from the audience to be the lead singer. Who would have thought that the actor-comedian Jack Black has a good voice?

The fifth round involved letting the audience lead the song.

My favorite version of Sweet Caroline was not last night, but on November 26, 2011 in Michigan Stadium when 110,000 Wolverines gleefully sang Sweet Caroline. Carmen Ohio was not going to ring through the Big House last year, as Michigan quenched a seven year drought by beating the Buckeyes.

I Am a Believer.

He followed Sweet Caroline with the poignant “I Am, I Said.” The lyrics were felt by all because no one in LA is from LA:

        Well, I’m New York City born and raised
        But now I’m caught between two shores
        L.A.’s fine, but it ain’t home –
        New York’s home, but it ain’t mine no more

And then comes the chorus:

         I am, I cried!
         I am, said I.
         And I am lost, and I cannot even say why.

His encore started with Coming to America. He talked about his grandmother who left Kiev at age 10 to come to America. He did not talk about its use as a campaign song and theme in 1988 by Governor Dukakis, who coincidentally found his salvation at UCLA.

Neil Diamond has long found his home. His home is the stage.

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