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Concert Reviews:
Neil Diamond shines in his final performance at the Palace

By Gary Graff
ggraff@digitalfirstmedia.com, @GraffonMusic on Twi

Posted: Saturday, June 3, 2017

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AUBURN HILLS -- The prospect of playing a final show at the Palace was “sad” and “great” and “wonderful” for Neil Diamond. And with good reasons.

Diamond has enjoyed a particularly good run at the arena since it opened during 1988. He’s played 19 times there and sold out 17 of them -- including Friday night, June 2, before more than 14,000 seated 360 degrees around the diamond-shaped (of course) stage. Both totals are the most for any individual artist at the Palace.

And on Friday Diamond gave the building a fond farewell with a two-hour, 27-song 50 Year Anniversary World Tour show that gave the rapt legion of Diamond heads just about everything they’ve come to expect from him.

The hits came in abundance, from “Cherry Cherry” to the rousing finale of “America.” There were deeper digs into the catalog, too, including tracks such as “Dry Your Eyes” (which Diamond dedicated to “the people of Manchester,” England), “Crunchy Granola Suite,” “Done Too Soon,” and a particularly affecting “Brooklyn Roads,” accompanied by photos and home movies from Diamond’s youth.

Clad in black and sporting two different jackets during the show, with the bedazzles consigned to his pants strips rather than his shirts as in days of yore, the goateed Diamond worked his way around the perimeter of the stage with a casual but undeniable presence, both with and without his guitar. And Diamond’s vocals hit the right combination of singing and speaking -- often with the assistance of fans who knew seemingly every work to every song he played, during the likes of “Song Song Blue, “Red Red Wine,” “I Am...I Said” and, of course, “Sweet Caroline” into spirited singalongs.

The 13-piece band, filled with veteran players from throughout Diamond’s career -- including “Forever In Blue Jeans” co-writer Richard Bennett and his son Nick on guitars and saxophonist Larry Klimas, who subbed for Barbra Streisand’s parts on “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” -- gave the songs complementary lush, cushy arrangements, although song such as “Soolaimon” and “I’m A Believer” would have benefitted from a little more fire. And the three-song “Jonathan Livingston Seagull” suite is still something of a speed-bump.

But the genuine and iconic affection for Diamond superseded any shortcomings on Friday. Diamond will certainly find other places to play in the metro area -- where, he noted, he’s performed 59 times -- but his last bow at the Palace memorable.

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