His hips may not swivel as completely and his feet may not move as quickly as they always have during his 50-year-career.
But that voice.
Neil Diamond’s voice is still strong and full and just as baritone buttery as it always was.
Diamond, now 76, showed off his still-sharp musical skills to a crowd of 10,500 on Friday night at Intrust Bank Arena. Many members of the crowd – especially an enthusiastic group in the first three rows – were his contemporaries, and some of them never sat down.
He performed nearly 30 songs, traveling through his five-decade library of hits, backed up by his seven-piece band, four-man horn section and two dancing backup singers.
The lineup included Diamond’s longtime drummer, Ron Tutt, 79, who once played with Elvis Presley, and guitarist Richard Bennett, who first recorded with Diamond in 1971 and who has toured with him for 17 years.
During one of the concert’s most lively numbers, “Forever in Blue Jeans,” Diamond recalled how 40 years previous, he was in a hotel “watching a cowboy movie” when Bennett knocked on his door to play him a guitar riff he’d just come up with.
The two worked the riff into “Forever in Blue Jeans,” the 1978 song from Diamond’s album “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.”
“Thank you, Richard,” Diamond said at the end of the song. “I’m so glad I was up and you knocked on the door.”
Though many singers lose voice quality as they age, Diamond really hasn’t. Sure, he spoke-sang a few lyrics he once belted, but he sounded mostly the same as he ever has. His voice has a Broadway tone (he would have made a great Jean Valjean), and it was best showcased during songs like “Be” and “Skybird.”
The audience applauded most enthusiastically for his big hits like “Love on the Rocks” and “Beautiful Noise.” During “Play Me,” a woman in the audience shouted above the crowd, “I’ll dance with you!”
A highlight of the concert was Diamond’s performed of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” his 1978 duet with Barbra Streisand. No, Babs didn’t show. But Diamond’s saxophonist, Larry Klimas, performed Streisand’s verse intricately on his horn.
Diamond opened the show with “Cherry, Cherry,” appearing in a leather jacket and black pants with a full beard and mustache. He seemed a little creeky and slow through the first parts of the show but seemed to gain pep and voice strength as it wore on. The set list also included “Solitary Man,” “Crunchy Granola Suite,” “I Am I Said,” “Holly Holy,” “Red Red Wine” and “I”m a Believer.”
Those who came just to hear Diamond’s ballpark favorite, “Sweet Caroline,” had to wait until the encore, and they showed their appreciation with a building-wide sing along.
“So good! So good! So good.”
The finale, just like in Diamond’s 1980 movie “The Jazz Singer,” was “America,” and the singalong continued until the lights went up.