Neil Diamond at
by Tony Medley
August 24, 1972
was a seminal moment in American pop music. That was the night that Neil
Diamond recorded a concert at the Greek Theater, appearing there for the
first time, that, in his words, "changed his life and his career." Up
until then he had been a relatively popular singer, just starting out.
After that album came out, he was a star.
I like to think
that I was there that night, but I wasn't. I was there four years later,
when he returned triumphantly to the Greek for a series of sold-out
concerts reprising what he sang four years prior. That was the most
magical concert I've ever attended (until I attended my next Neil
On August 11,
Diamond returned to the Greek for the first time in 26 years. He outgrew
the Greek Theater's comfy confines that presently contains only 5,900
seats, and that was after it was expanded in 1983. On "Hot August Night"
in 1972, it only seated 4,880. Diamond returned to the Greek several
times, the last in 1986 when he set the Greek Theater attendance record
to date for his 14-night stand of 84,672. I've seen him every time he's
appeared since my first time in 1976.
Diamond has returned to the Greek for a 40th Anniversary concert. I was
there opening night, August 11.
recent concerts, this is a tribute to the past. He sang almost every
song he sang on August 24, 1972 and added some he's written since.
He started with
a rousing rendition of Crunchy Granola Suite ("Deedelee deet deet
deet deet deet deet deedledee do”) that brought the audience to its feet
even before it had settled in. While interspersing his familiar upbeat
songs with some ballads (Girl You'll Be A Woman Soon,
Solitary Man), he included some stories and remembrances, alluding
to his wife who was in the audience. He told that he wrote a song he
didn't think much of and gave it to The Monkees. According to his
patter, in their hands it became the only song he wrote that reached No.
1 on the charts, I'm a Believer. He sang his version, a ballad. I
told my friend, "I like The Monkees' version better." He must have heard
me because then he sang The Monkees' version and it brought down the
But the best was
yet to come. His standard, Sweet Caroline, was so well received
he had to do several encores, the audience constantly calling for more.
Who wouldn't want to hear more Sweet Caroline with its inventive
arrangement that is probably as popular as the melody and lyrics with
the audience singing along?
thing about a Neil Diamond concert that plays his old standards is that
the songs keep getting better. After Sweet Caroline came the hand
clapping Cracklin' Rosie, I Am, I Said, Holly Holy,
and Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show, and all the other
favorites from the Hot August Night album.
But he did add
some of his newer songs, and the one that took the cake was America
that he wrote for The Jazz Singer in 1980. I'm not making any
kind of a judgment here, but this could be Diamond's best concert song.
The crowd was electric and demanded that he sing several more encores.
played his guitar for many of his songs, his band backing him up looked
as if it had been with him for years and never missed a beat on the high
tempo songs. Each member was introduced individually and each played a
Much of the
audience also looked as if they had been Diamond fans for as many
decades as I, and proved that it's not just 20 somethings who can dance
to each song in a concert that lasts several hours.
Neil Diamond is
71 years old but his voice is still strong, his rhythm impeccable, and
he can still light up an audience. He was onstage for over two hours and
the audience still wanted more when it ended.
atmosphere of the Greek Theater makes this a concert experience one
doesn't get at a huge venue with tens of thousands of people. This could
be the last chance to experience one of the great singing stars of the
age in his best environment. With so few seats at the Greek Theater, I
feel truly blessed to live in Los Angeles and have the access and
opportunity to have been able to see this brilliant entertainer one
more time in his best venue.