September 23, 2020
Neil Diamond Lost in World of Percussion
By Digby Diehl
Dave Hull’s Hullabaloo is probably one of the cruelest places in the world to toss a songwriter. Yet there stand Neil (“I’m a Believer) Diamond hopelessly wafting his lyrics into that gigantic echo chamber over a writhing sea of teen-age flesh which is blandly unreceptive to anything but the thud and crash of percussion.
Diamond’s opening night appearance at the club this weekend put nary a dent in the bobbing mass of hair spray and chewing gum, despite a dutiful attempt at enthusiastic vocalizing, “I Wrote the Book,” his uptempo starter, sent the teenies bopping for all they were worth, apparently unaware that Diamond’s guitar twanged impossibly flat.
Then, while a rusty tangerine spotlight bathed the dance floor, Diamond crooned an electronic organ-backed ballad, the words of which were undistinguishable.
“We have some of the most beautiful women in the world and some of the most beautiful problems in the world,” said Neil, suavely introducing “I Got the Feeling.” After a travesty of this tune, during which he shifted tempos four times, he turned to the hard-hitting sounds of “La Bomba” and “rock and roll music.”
The relative success of his Presley imitation was erased, however, in Diamond’s outrageous rendition of “What Now My Love”: he sang a full minor second out of key while the drummer floundered miserable in search of the beat.
Crippled by an incompetent band and plagued by acoustical troubles, Diamond wandered through a dragging version of “I’m a Believer” before making a strategic retreat from the stage.
As a songwriter, his success has been assured with such hits as “Sunday and Me,” “Solitary Man,” ” Cherry Cherry,” “I Got the Feeling” and “I’m a Believer.” And as a recording artist, Neil has hit the Top 40; but his personal appearance at the Hullabaloo is sadly lacking in the evident talent that sparks his songs and records.
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