The Neil Diamond concert at the Greek Theater in Hollywood this past Thursday was endlessly fascinating to me. The crowd was a sea of people over 60 years old. I’ve been guilty of having the misperception that people over 60 are boring, serious, not knowing how to have a good time, and sickly-looking, but that false perception of mine was changed this past Thursday night. These elderly folk were having the time of their lives vibrantly dancing around like it was their Woodstock.
My friends and I were by far the youngest people there. I have never considered myself a fan of Neil Diamond, but oddly enough, I own his 1972 album, “Hot August Night, Live at the Greek Theater,” which I’ve listened to over the years, mostly ironically, but sometimes genuinely. Half of Thursday night’s crowd was at the actual taping of that album 40 years ago.
I went to the concert with three good friends. Unfortunately, two of them left after the second song, because the show was “too insane” for them. One of my friends’ reasons for leaving the concert so early was that he couldn’t handle the amount of cologne the guy sitting next to him was wearing. A part of me can’t blame him. There was an obscene amount of cologne on the men in the crowd. A lot of earrings in one ear too.
Neil Diamond has the charisma of a top-billed Vegas magician. He hypnotized the crowd with his stage antics and corny quips. He moved around the stage like a magical water moccasin invoking the crowd to erupt with applause with just the smooth raising of his arm and a whimsical smile. His classic line that night was “I’m attracted to noise.” This, of course, was the crowd’s cue to make a bunch of noise hootin’ and hollerin’.
Neil sang those classic songs Comin’ to America and Sweet Caroline like the true talented professional that he is, but he seemed to be teetering on the brink of madness, which made for some unintentionally humorous situations. For example, Diamond was explaining the inspiration for one of his songs by talking about how beautiful and lovely his wife is and mid-soliloquy he barks at a stagehand to remove a floor fan that was “driving him nuts” and then continued on about how wonderful his wife is like nothing happened. I also sensed that he wanted to murder one of his roadies just by the way he shot him a deadly glare as that poor guy was bringing him his guitar, but Neil never for a second carried that rage over into the songs he was singing. There seemed to be a real subtle split-personality disorder in Neil that made for some uncomfortable laughter from me and my friend.
Here’s where I’m weird: In my fantasy world as I was watching the show, Neil Diamond’s face continually morphed into various different celebrities. One minute he was Joe Biden singing “Coming to America.” The next minute he was a dorky Mr. Rogers wandering around his “neighborhood” which was his stage, then a humorous Bob Odenkirk crackin’ zingers, and then a deep-feeling Ben Gazzara singing a heartfelt song.
It was such a fun experience seeing the legendary Neil Diamond share his gift with us that night.