On 3 July 1996, at the insistence of Steve Warner, who swore that no songwriter ever accomplished so much with just five chords, I went over to the Joyce Center to see Neil Diamond in concert.
South Bend Tribune Published: 07/05/96 DIAMOND CONCERT PLAYS ON DECADES MUSIC REVIEW By LYNN ROUSE
SOUTH BEND - Neil Diamond's sold-out audience Wednesday at the Joyce Center mirrored his lyrics ''pack up the babies and bring the old ladies and everyone goes.'' Several decades were represented not only by the fans, but also by the songs played. At least one couple had planned on a romantic night out: Dennis and Diane Snyder of Escondido, Calif., were there celebrating their 30th wedding anniversary. Their gift to one another was to follow ''Brother Love'' on tour. They visited Pittsburgh, Cleveland and Detroit on their way to South Bend and will follow him to St. Louis and Kansas City before attending a performance in their home state.
A spectacular laser show with a revolving stage in the round coupled with Diamond's requisite sequinned shirt and star quality set the stage for old favorites that fans expect. Sign-toting devotees were appeased with consummate showmanship on ''Cherry Cherry'' (1966), ''Solitary Man'' (1970), ''September Morn'' (1980) and ''Play Me'' (1972). The classic rendition of ''Kentucky Woman'' (1967) led into a set of ''Tennessee Moon'' songs. His voice sounded as smooth and sweet as it did 30 years ago.
A difficult collaboration with his past came in the form of ''Everybody,'' co-written with son Jesse Diamond. Neil Diamond admitted he had looked forward to the opportunity to work with his son. Instead, he claims, ''It was rough. He treated me like dirt like he always did.'' Diamond's self-deprecating humor punctuated the beautiful ballad ''Marry Me'' when he commented that songwriters are strange; they write divorce songs when they are in love and love songs when they are divorcing. Referring to a second divorce, Diamond advised the audience, ''Do as I say, not as I do,'' when introducing this sure-to-be-played wedding piece.
Diamond followed the mellow song with the crowd-stomping ''Forever in Blue Jeans.'' The audience stayed up on its feet for classics such as ''Song Sung Blue'' (1972), ''Love on the Rocks'' (1980) and ''I Am I Said'' (1971). Diamond referred to his last visit to South Bend as a too-long hiatus of nine years and vowed to play some of the songs missed. The 55-year-old crooner kept his promise by playing for 2 hours and 15 minutes with one encore (''Cracklin' Rose'') - and no intermission, no warm-up band and no flaws.
The concert ended with Diamond taking on the persona of ''Brother Love,'' from his 1969 song ''Brother Love's Travelling Salvation Show.'' Speaking in the voice of an evangelical preacher, he admonished, ''black, white, straight, gay, they're all God's children. Reach out.''