Alone, Together: Soliltary Diamond Pleases Crowd
By CURTIS ROSS
Published: October 25, 2008
Updated: 12:15 am
TAMPA – The man who never cared for the sound of being alone had little to worry about Friday night, drawing a crowd of 13,604 to the St. Pete Times Forum.
The irony – and what is one of Neil Diamond’s greatest gifts – is that even in a boisterous arena he can sound all alone.
Sure, he did celebratory, group-hug numbers such as “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” the evening’s closer, and the guaranteed singalong “Sweet Caroline.”
But at heart, Neil-ness is loneliness, the kind that can’t be eased by an arena full of adoring fans, or even a crack 11-piece band anchored by Elvis’ former drummer, Ron Tutt. In “Solitary Man,” its melody a collar raised against a chill wind, he vows to stay single until he finds a love you know is too good to be true. In “I Am … I Said,” an epic of spiritual displacement, he finds himself talking to furniture.
And even though he sings in the excellent title track to his new album, “Home Before Dark,” that there’s someone waiting, you just know – from the melody and the sound of his voice – the house is empty.
All of which makes the evening sound like a downer, which it most assuredly was not. Because Diamond’s other great gift is the ability to transcend that loneliness live, to touch all those lonely souls and then bring ’em all together to sing “So good! So good!”
Besides, any concert set that includes the fabulously rocking “Crunchy Granola Suite” is, by definition, not a downer. “Cherry, Cherry” and “I’m a Believer” helped keep the blues at bay as well.
What makes Diamond invincible to changing tastes and styles is that he doesn’t care how anyone defines him. Think he’s a sensitive singer-songwriter? Cue “Brooklyn Roads.” Think he’s a romantic balladeer? Cue “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” which opened with Diamond seated at a cafe table with wine glasses and single red rose.
Think he’s a slick showman selling a little musical salvation? Pack up the babies and grab your old lady. Everyone knows. Everyone goes to Brother Neil’s show.