Review: Neil Diamond shines bright as he belts out the hits
It may have been the hottest day of the year, but the sun wasn’t the only thing shining in Belfast last night.
Musical legend Neil Diamond glistened like his namesake at the first of two sold-out Odyssey Arena dates.
Coming on stage beneath a gemstone-shaped lighting rig and backed by a band the size of a small army, there was nothing understated about this most showbiz of shows.
Despite being 74, Diamond cut a remarkably youthful figure, sporting a cowboy-style shirt and a pair of jeans many men a third his age would be lucky to fit into.
The crowd-pleasing crooner began as he meant to go on, leading a chorus of several thousand voices through I’m A Believer, the first of several tunes penned by Diamond but made famous by someone else.
Love On The Rocks and Hello Again saw the singer wringing some heavy emotion from the material to the delight of his fans, many of whom could probably chart their lives to Diamond’s back catalogue.
And the hits kept coming — Solitary Man, Play Me and a wonderfully overwrought Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon.
“It feels awfully nice to hear women screaming my name out,” Diamond joked.
“It makes me feel like I’m 70 again.” The self-deprecating humour was definitely welcome.
When he hit the high notes, Diamond’s ‘well-maintained’ phizzog appeared fixed in a grimace, and when he thumped his chest, it wasn’t clear if he was showing his appreciation or signalling a heart attack.
But the crowd had the ageing icon’s back.
“We’re all in this together,” he announced before rousing everyone out of their seats for Red, Red Wine, rendered in the UB40 style, complete with rapping mid-section.
A handful of tracks from his latest album Melody Road were politely received, but soon it was back to the big numbers, climaxing with Song Sung Blue, Holly Holy and a soaring I Am... I Said.
The encore brought more singalongs on Cracklin’ Rosie, Sweet Caroline and America. In terms of knowing what his fans want and giving it to them in spades, there’s nothing crazy about this Diamond.