Neil Diamond – Vector Arena 19 October 2015

It was business as usual for Neil Diamond last night at Auckland’s Vector Arena, and that business is playing hits…lots and lots of them.  With fifty years of chartbusters to draw from, Diamond had his fans singing and clapping along for well over two hours.

As with Kiss, who played at the same venue just days earlier, there’s no point in going to a Neil Diamond show with any cynicism…he is what he is…an amazing songwriter with a flair for the over-dramatic when he performs. To be fair, that tendency of the over-dramatic seemed to have been toned down since he was last here in 2011. There was the occasional wave of the arm to emphasis a lyric or “conduct” the band, but otherwise Neil concentrated on singing his songs straight up…which is the way I like them.

With so many hits to get through there was no time for an opening act and Diamond took the stage shortly after 8Pm…the pre-recorded announcer warning us that the light would soon go dark abruptly and that there would be no intermission.

The 74-year old was looking dapper in a black close-fitting, lightly-sequined outfit.  He was accompanied by a 13-piece band driven by legendary drummer Ron Tutt, who backed Elvis Presley for many years, along with two female backing singers and a four-piece horn section.

The evening started with a brassy version of I’m A Believer, the tune Diamond donated to The Monkees to kick off their career in 1966.

Diamond’s voice may have gotten a bit “grittier” over time, but otherwise his instrument sounded in good nick.

By the time he got to 1977’s Desiree, the audience was singing and clapping along, and they would pretty much remain that way for the duration of the two hour and 15 minute show.

Since his last performance here, Diamond has added a few more earlier tunes to the set list and songs like Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon, You Got To Me, Brooklyn Roads and particularly Shilo were much appreciated.

The autobiographical Brooklyn Roads came complete with a video montage of home movie footage that Diamond’s father had shot while Neil and his family were growing up in Brooklyn during the 1940s and 50s. The crowd loved it.

We were given a short reprieve from the hits about three quarter of the way into the show when Diamond presented three songs from his latest album, 2014’s Melody Road. They fit right in with the oldies, with The Art Of Love being a standout.

Then after a rousing singalong for Song Song Blue and Forever In Blue Jeans, Diamond slung his acoustic guitar over his shoulder for his breakthrough hit, 1966’s Cherry, Cherry.

The set closed with a series of songs drawn from his classic live album, Hot August Night including Soolaimon, Holly Holy and I Am…I Said.

Of course he wasn’t finished yet. Diamond returned for compulsory versions of Cracklin’ Rosie and Sweet Caroline. The encore wrapped up with America, Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show and, finally, Heartlight.

By 10:30 it was time to go…the audience having sung their little hearts out.

Incredibly, even after hearing 29 tunes, I could still come up with a handful of Neil Diamond songs I hadn’t heard…Thank The Lord For The Night Time, Longfellow Serenade, You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, I’ve Been This way Before…amazing.

Marty Duda

There are limited seats still available to Neil’s next two NZ concerts Auckland, Vector Arena, Wednesday 21st & Dunedin, Forsyth Barr Stadium, Saturday 24th Oct

For more information go to:

Click on any image to view a photo gallery by Veronica McLaughlin:

Neil Diamond set list:

  1. I’m A Believer
  2. Desiree
  3. Love On The Rocks
  4. Hello Again
  5. Pretty Amazing Grace
  6. Kentucky Woman
  7. Solitary Man
  8. You Got To Me
  9. Girl, You’ll Be A Woman Soon
  10. Play Me
  11. Red Red Wine
  12. Beautiful Noise
  13. If You Know What I Mean
  14. Brooklyn Roads
  15. Shilo
  16. Nothing But A Heartache
  17. Something Blue
  18. The Art Of Love
  19. Song Sung Blue
  20. Forever In Blue Jeans
  21. Cherry, Cherry
  22. Soolaimon
  23. Holly Holy
  24. I Am…I Said
  25. Cracklin’ Rosie
  26. Sweet Caroline
  27. America
  28. Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show
  29. Heartlight