Neil Diamond at the O2 ArenaCultureMusicLive music
Six months into his worldwide golden anniversary tour, Neil Diamond arrived in London to grace the stage of the O2. Given that this tour celebrates the half-century of his career as a songwriter, half a year on the road does not intimidate this seasoned performer.
In fact, Diamond seems completely unfazed by the crowd of 20,000. In our company he is calmly charismatic. Allotting himself and his microphone a modest performance space in front of his band, he gratefully shares the spotlight with them. The musicians resemble a minimalist big band, standing on tiered stages in their sections. The singer-songwriter makes sure to showcase each of the talents of the musicians supporting him, and introduces them to us one by one, giving the performance a soul of collaboration.
Having first picked up a guitar 60 years ago, Neil Diamond had one nearby but on this occasion relied simply on his voice, which, over the years, has matured to become a deeper bassier baritone. This lends a richness to his jauntier hits like I’m a Believer and Red Red Wine. With the backing of the father and son guitarist duo – Richard and Nick Bennett – Diamond transforms popular classics into Johnny Cash sound-a-likes.
With this acquired vocal style coupled with his ease as a performer, the huge arena feels impressively intimate during slower numbers. As the artist sings Brooklyn Roads – a particularly emotional song dedicated to his parents – a video montage of his childhood in 1950s New York plays behind.
Despite these wistful moments, it must be said that for the majority of this concert the audience are springing out of their seats to dance along with their favourite tracks. Those unable to dance wave walking sticks in support. Husbands and wives alongside parents and children gleefully sing along to sentimental favourites.
Neil Diamond has a sparkling legacy as a songwriter – something that might be overlooked by those who simply associate him with Sweet Caroline. Nevertheless; when the golden boy returns for an encore, clad in a gilded jacket, to belt out his most famous hit, the crowd’s contributions of “ba-da-ba-baa” are deafening.
Neil Diamond 50 was a golden celebration of a lifetime devoted to music. Here’s hoping that in a decade’s time he will return to celebrate his diamond anniversary. In any case, the singer has proven that this diamond truly is forever.
Photo: Eva Rinaldi
For further information and future events visit the Neil Diamond website here.