Local Current Blog

Review: Neil Diamond celebrates his half-century career, at the Xcel Energy Center

Xcel Energy Center. Illustration by Allegra Lockstadt for The Current.

To commemorate five decades of his musical career, Neil Diamond did what he does best: set sail on a world tour. Last night he stopped at the Xcel Energy Center, wowing the crowd with a magical set of 28 songs that spanned his musical tenure.

It was his seventh visit to the Xcel, selling out shows in ‘01, ‘08, ’12 and ‘15 — and once again, Minnesotans welcomed him back with fervor. Awaiting his arrival, the two big screens scrolled through photos of people at the show who shared their pics with the hashtag #tweetcaroline. Admittedly, this was my first encounter Diamond and his fans. I just recently became one myself. I knew of his greatness, but didn’t expect the magnitude of his legendary energy.

The 11-piece band took their places and began to play an instrumental version of “In My Lifetime,” which was accompanied with a visual history that took us on a journey through Diamond’s career. With the crowd engrossed in the images, Diamond’s entrance on stage was almost muted, but once people caught a glimpse of him dressed in all black, his pants with a hint of sparkle and a black guitar slung over his shoulder, they went wild.

Briefly addressing the crowd, he started in with “Cherry Cherry.” He sounded just like the Neil Diamond of yesteryear, his vocals virtually untouched by time. As he wove through his career, touching each decade, presenting song after song in his mesmerizing manner with his epic hooks and catchy lyrics, the man did not tire. The pop star — “the Jewish Elvis,” as he’s been coined — did not show his age at all. In fact, it was quite the opposite.

Most of the show, understandably, felt somewhat scripted: Diamond’s banter with the crowd, the transitions from song to song. He did however, dedicate the show to the victims in Manchester as he then led us through “Dry Your Eyes.”

After almost two hours of playing, The 76-year-old Diamond ended with a four-song encore that had the entire arena on their feet. No matter how many times you’ve heard “Sweet Caroline,” nothing compared it to seeing it live and being in a room of thousands of people who felt the same. When asked if he ever got sick of singing that song, he told Rolling Stone last year, “No. First of all, it changes pretty much every time. The form changes, the dynamics change. Sometimes you don’t even plan for it to change, but it just changes.” So good, so good!

“This is my job,” Diamond earlier told the New York Times. “Someone much greater than me gave me that job. He said, ‘You, you with that stupid look on your face — go out and sing until I tell you to stop.’ I haven’t heard the word yet, so I’m just going to keep doing it.”

After 50 years, 34 studio albums, and 19 world tours, I’m not sure Neil Diamond will ever stop doing his job — and his fans couldn’t be happier.

In My Lifetime
Cherry Cherry
September Morn
Dry Your Eyes
Love on the Rocks
Play Me
Beautiful Noise
Jungle Time
If You Know What I Mean
Forever in Blue Jeans
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
Red Red Wine
I’m A Believer
Brooklyn Roads
Pretty Amazing Grace
Lonely Looking Sky
Jazz Time
Done Too Soon
Holly Holy
Sweet Caroline
Cracklin’ Rosie
Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show

Sarah Eldred works in the development department at MPR and shares an equal passion for music, dogs, and running.