wed 18/09/2019

Neil Diamond, Radio 2 Electric Proms, Roundhouse | reviews, news & interviews

Neil Diamond, Radio 2 Electric Proms, Roundhouse

Neil Diamond, Radio 2 Electric Proms, Roundhouse

A crowd-pleasing set from the veteran showbiz trouper

Good, old-fashioned, uplifting fun: Neil Diamond

At 7.55pm I was tired and grouchy. By 9.30pm I was a happy man, thanks to Neil Diamond. Say what you like about this 69-year-old singer and songwriter: he may be a cheesy old showbiz pro, but personally I am partial to a bit of cheesy showbiz, and an hour and a half in his company on the final night of this year’s Radio 2 Electric Proms was a real tonic.

With his Thunderbirds eyebrows and his prowling gait, Diamond was an imposing figure whose voice has lost none of its gritty rasp, a quality that lends his songs emotional authenticity. And his rapport with the audience was immaculate – lots of eye contact, expansive gestures at the big moments, a serious little nod of acknowledgment when a familiar song was greeted with a ripple of applause, a wave for the folks in the balcony, another little nod to acknowledge the cheers that came back. A real trouper.

He was a garrulous host, too, flirting with the ladies of a certain age who clustered around the edge of the stage in a sort of middle-aged mosh pit, and talking – as he always seems to, and with not terribly convincing self-deprecation - about how he was “just a kid from Brooklyn” when he became an in-demand songwriter in the mid-1960s.

And he was a crowd-pleaser, delivering exactly what the audience wanted: all the hits, played by his band of old-timers, backed by a string section. In contrast with Elton John, who I’m told made a poor job of balancing old tunes and new material at his Electric Proms show on Thursday night, Diamond didn’t oversell the new stuff, almost apologising as he introduced another song from Dreams, his decent new album of cover versions, among them a surprisingly affecting rendition of "Midnight Train to Georgia" and a strong, stirring "Ain’t No Sunshine". On neither occasion did he even attempt to sing them as “soul” songs; he sang them as Neil Diamond songs, with that strong, measured, purposeful delivery. Also impressive was a stripped-down version of his own "I'm a Believer". Mercifully we were spared the album’s low point, a version of Gilbert O’Sullivan’s irredeemably sickly "Alone Again (Naturally)".

As has become traditional with the Electric Proms, he also brought on a couple of guests. The first was the perennially perky Lulu, who sang a Neil Diamond song that she had a hit with in 1967, "The Boat That I Row", followed by a sweet and soulful "I’m a Fool For You", finishing each song in a little clinch with Diamond, her sparkly stilettoed heel kicked up behind her. Rather less flirtatious, but packing considerably more musical muscle, was the second guest, Amy Macdonald, who, accompanied only by her own acoustic guitar, wrapped her remarkable tonsils around "Shilo" and "This is The Life". What a voice she has: it seems to belong to another era.

Then Diamond stepped back into the spotlight for the finale: the dark and purposeful "Holly Holy", an exuberant "Cracklin’ Rosie", and the irresistible "Sweet Caroline", the audience waving their arms like sea anemones on a coral reef.

What else can I say? This was good, old-fashioned, uplifting fun, lapped up by the Roundhouse audience, and doubtless appreciated by those listening live on Radio 2 (it’s due for broadcast on TV later in November). And there were times, notably on "Pretty Amazing Grace" and the magnificent "I Am... I Said", when Neil Diamond reminded us that, for all his slick showmanship and smooth patter, he’s a man of substance, too.

Overleaf: Neil Diamond sings "I Am... I Said"

He was a crowd-pleaser, delivering exactly what the audience wanted: all the hits

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Comments

So pleased you enjoyed Neil Diamond's Electric Proms. I think everyone did who was there and those listening on the radio. How could you not? And the best thing is, Neil ALWAYS performs this well in concert, always connects with his audience, always gives 110%, always leaves us wanting more.....

An excellent review....the night was certainly Electric!! Neil did what Neil does best....sung from his heart! "The Singer sung his Songs" and we definitely "Danced Along" Awesome Night!

He came, they saw, he conquered. Neil Diamond returned to britain for the first time in nearly three years to perform the last night of the electric proms and he didn't disappoint. Delving into his back catalogue of songs he treated the audience to his special talents as both singer and performer. The show interspersed with selections from his new cover album dreams displayed what an impressive interpreter of song he is also showing that his rich baritone still has the power to move and none moreso than his own introspective I am...I said had the audience delivering a deserved and prolonged ovation. The old standards Sweet Caroline, Forever in blue jeans, Cracklin Rosie et al provided plenty of participation whilst the slower ballads, Hello again, Love on the rocks etc.. brought wistfulness to the proceedings. There were even guests, Scotlands Lulu sang the boat that I row, penned by Diamond in the late sixties but a hit for the scottish warbler in that era, Amy Macdonald provided a modern twist to the evening and sang an acceptable version of Diamond's classic Shilo before delivering a fine reading of one of her own songs. If this is a prelude to a new world tour by Diamond then fans and converts are in for a treat.

I cant really understand the choice of having ND at EP. He is predictable, and so many others out there such awesome and creative to choose from... I personally feel they could have made way better choice of person or group to highlight.... I think he is corney and 'gravely voiced' to my ears is 'aged voice'

Just finished listening...amazing performer as always !! Good to hear Lulu again.

I was there on Saturday to see Neil Diamond at the proms and my gosh what a show. I've seen Neil at huge concerts but the intimate surroundings of the Roundhouse was amazing. Neil was amazing, so close and sounding so good. I travelled down from the North of Scotland and had a marvellous time. Thank you Neil and the band, the orchestra, Lulu and Amy for a wonderful night.

one of the best singer/songwriters/performers ever! who deserves more recognition than he gets.

one of the best singer/songwriters in the world today, the man's a genius xxx ANN MUIRHEAD LEVEN FIFE SCOTLAND

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