by Jeff Niesel
Near the end of last night’s two-hour performance at Quicken Loans Arena, singer Neil Diamond reminisced about Hot August Night, his 1972 album that was issued nearly 40 years ago. He fondly recalled the shows and the way in which the album helped to launch his career. That flashback moment seemed to bring the 71-year-old singer to life as he then delivered a rousing rendition of “Holly Holy” that then led into crowd favorite “Sweet Caroline,” which got the capacity crowd up and on its feet, especially as Diamond relished in the tune so much he added reprise after reprise to its ending.
Prior to that, however, it seemed as if Diamond were going through the motions. His renditions of “Beautiful Noise” and “Forever in Blue Jeans” were tepid, and the 14-piece band was turned down too low in the sound mix (but Diamond’s voice was up front and center for the entire show). The drama of “Love on the Rocks” didn’t translate, and “Shilo” was too subdued. “Girl, You’ll be a Woman Soon” had a bit more power and so did “Cherry Cherry.” But “I’m a Believer,” the song he wrote for the Monkees that became their signature hit, suffered because Diamond sang it as a somber ballad (he relented by song’s end and delivered it the way the Monkees did).
After getting the crowd amped with “Sweet Caroline,” Diamond ended the show with “I Am… I Said,” but he came back strong for the encore, delivering a knock out renditions of “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “America.” Though he talks his way through the songs a bit more these days, Diamond still has a strong voice. And he's a gracious performer — he expressed his love for Cleveland and said he's played the city about 17 times since 1969. It’s just too bad he had to save up his energy for the concert finale and couldn’t sustain his effort for the entire show.