Published on theMusic.com.au, Nov 2015
As the sun set over the picturesque scenery at Sandalford Winery, dark clouds scattered the horizon and spat lightening in the distance, which marked the perfect theatrical entrance for Neil Diamond, as he ran through a heavy, thunder-like synth to what would soon slide into I’m A Believer. “Are you ready to partay tonight?!” he yelled.
The upbeat tone continued, seeing Desiree smashing into heartfelt romantic numbers Love On The Rocks and Hello Again, giving the first glimpse at the diverse skillset acquired by the charismatic performer since he began his musical journey in the ’60s.
Plucking an acoustic guitar from under a spotlight, Solitary Man picked things up again, and shortly after Longfellow Serenade was concluded the iconic black axe was laid to rest and Diamond floated around to You Got To Me, while his female backing singers were thrust into the spotlight. If was all about the ladies for Girl, You’ll Be A Woman, and they weren’t shying away from the song’s lyrical content.
“I love it when the women scream out my name,” he said, urging security to lay off front row punters drifting towards the stage. “Makes me feel like I’m 70 again.”
Play Me saw the 16,000-strong crowd singing in quiet harmony, and it was indeed a Beautiful Noise. But it wasn’t long until the spotlight was once again fixed on Diamond for If You Know What I Mean. Keeping the emotional rollercoaster on full throttle, a touching rendition of Brooklyn Roads was accompanied by home footage from Diamond’s childhood, which provided a taste of his storytelling abilities.
Although a little less transparent and linear, Shilo extended the trip down memory lane before The Art Of Love, a single from 2014’s Melody Road record, pulled things in the other direction: a juxtaposition that gave a stark comparison between old and new songwriting and inspiration.
Fans’ patience for sitting through the new stuff was rewarded with Forever In Blue Jeans, Cherry Cherry and Hot August Night intro Crunchy Granola Sweet, which was just a glorious as the day it was out to tape at the Greek Theatre in LA in 1972.
Holly Holy swept into I Am… I Said, and Diamond soaked up a wealth of applause, disappearing behind the massive production only to quickly reappear in a silver jacket for Cracklin’ Rosie, Sweet Caroline, and Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show.
Six decades into his career and Neil Diamond is all class and charisma. It’s hard to imagine any artists of the current generation having such longevity in their careers and resulting music, proving they just don’t make them like they used to.