Neil Diamond performs at Erasmus Hall High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 29
Photo: Randee Dawn
Neil Diamond At Erasmus Hall High School
Welcome to The Set List. Here you'll find the latest concert recaps for many of your favorite, or maybe not so favorite, artists. Our bloggers will do their best to provide you with every detail of the show, from which songs were on the set list to what the artist was wearing to which out-of-control fan made a scene. Hey, it'll be like you were there. And if you like what you read, we'll even let you know where you can catch the artist on tour. Feel free to drop us a comment and let us know your concert experience. Oh, and rock on.By
The Neil Diamond fans came from near and far. Some even drove for hours from far-flung states, while others took the commuter rail in from Long Island, and some just hopped over on the subway, but every one of the nearly 1,000 fans fortunate enough to gain access to Diamond's first-ever gig in his home borough of Brooklyn, N.Y., on Sept. 29 was hungry to hear their hero play.
So hungry, in fact, that when "Sweet Caroline" streamed through the speakers some 15 minutes before the not-all-that-secret free gig at Diamond's alma mater, Erasmus Hall High School, the crowd took it upon themselves to chant and clap away as if the GRAMMY winner had already taken the stage.
Diamond fans are nothing if not loyal, and — after watching the 73-year-old performer strut his stuff during what ended up being an approximately 45-minute show — it's not a surprise. He's a showman who happens to be a musician, bringing a little bit of Las Vegas swing and glam to Flatbush for an evening (his black acoustic guitar has his name written in silver script on the fretboard), as he rolled through a curious, yet satisfying short roster of classics, including the jaunty "I'm A Believer," the foot-stomping "Cracklin' Rosie" and the wistful, nostalgic "Brooklyn Roads."
He also took time to speak to the crowd, letting them know what Erasmus (whose graduates also include luminaries such as Barbra Streisand and Clive Davis) meant to him. It turns out the school's auditorium was where Diamond, stuck there in detention in the '50s, heard someone playing piano and decided to change instruments on the spot, he explained. It also was where he once came to hear onetime presidential candidate Adlai Stevenson II speak.
"This is a meaningful place for me," Diamond said, before bouncing a red Spalding (or "Spaldeen" for Brooklynites) High-Bounce Ball into the crowd.
The whole affair was a clever hook to promote Diamond's upcoming album, Melody Road, set for release on Oct. 21. He chose two songs to perform from the forthcoming album: the mildly countrified "Something Blue" and the emotive, rhythmic "Nothing But A Heartache," which came across like a dramatic reading — a song without a noticeable chorus.
Then, almost before it began, it was over, with a real live rendition of "Sweet Caroline," during which the audience helpfully shouted along to the "ba-ba-ba" horn part and "So good! So good! So good!" The song has become Diamond's signature, required hit; he'd have gotten worse than detention if he'd omitted it from the set list, no doubt. But like a true showman, he never revealed anything other than complete delight that he got to play it yet again. With a sparkle in his eye and a spring in his step, Diamond knew all the right moves and he played them like a virtuoso.
As for those New Yorkers who missed out on the homecoming gig, don't worry: Diamond will pack the nearby Barclays Center next spring.
"I'm A Believer"
"Love On The Rocks"
"Forever In Blue Jeans"
"Nothing But A Heartache"
(Randee Dawn is a New York-based entertainment writer whose work has appeared in The New York Times, Los Angeles Times, Variety, NBCNews.com, and Emmy magazine. Her short fiction has appeared in 3:AM Magazine and on the podcast "Well Told Tales," and she is the co-author of The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion.)