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Neil Diamond overcomes tough stadium to thrill Utah fans
This is an archived article that was published on sltrib.com in 2012, and information in the article may be outdated. It is provided only for personal research purposes and may not be reprinted.

Sandy • Call this the summer of oldie tours in Utah.

John Fogerty brought his Credence Clearwater Revival hits to Deer Valley, the Beach Boys celebrated their 50th anniversary in Provo, Ringo Starr made an appearance at USANA and Crosby, Stills and Nash and Huey Lewis will be playing Red Butte soon.

Thus, it was appropriate that 71-year-old Neil Diamond brought his Greatest Hits Tour to town before a nice-sized crowd at Rio Tinto Stadium that braved traffic and a general sense of disorganization to see the recent Rock and Roll Hall of Fame inductee.

As a concert venue, Rio Tinto makes a good soccer stadium. Sight lines aren't great, many of the seats are far from the stage, it costs $20 to park and long lines just trying to get into the show delayed the scheduled 8 p.m. start.

Worse, the sound was muddled much of the night. On many of the faster, louder songs, Diamond's large band and horn section made it difficult to hear the words..

That said, I'm sure the thousands of adoring fans who stood, screamed, and shouted out the words to classics couldn't have cared a whit about these minor quibbles. Diamond is a consumate professional and he gave the show everything he had in what has to be a very difficult venue for a performer.

Gov. Gary Herbert, who was in attendance, signed a proclamation declaring this "Neil Diamond Day" in Utah. Since Diamond has always been hugely popular here, the honor was certainly well deserved.

The surprise for me might have been that, in this large stadium, ballads such as "Play Me," "I Am I Said" and "Hello Again" ranked among the highlights of a two-hour set that included no warmup act or intermission. That was especially true of the slower ballad version of "I'm a Believer," that Diamond dedicated to his wife of 2½ months despite the fact it was written long before she was born.

But the rock version of "I'm A Believer," made popular by the Monkees in the mid-1960s, proved a major high point. It was the highest energy number on a night that included many, and had most of the stadium crowd standing, singing along and dancing in place.

And he knows what sells, too, as evidenced by four reprises of "Sweet Caroline" as the delighted crowd sang along.

The stage was sparse and Diamond wore a simple black outfit. Two television screens on either side of the stage were a welcome addition to a stadium built for soccer and not for concerts.

He added a silk blue top for the encore, the highlight of which proved to be a stirring version of "America," complete with some iconic video highlights of the Statue of Liberty, the U.S. flag and a bald eagle.

Add to that "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" and the 22-song set hit most if not all of the singer-songwriter's career that began in the 1950s. In that song, he implored the crowd to buy a T-shirt, with proceeds going to help defray medical costs from the recent shooting in Aurora, Colo.

Diamond paid tribute to his wife, his 6-year-old granddaughter Lilly, his grandmother and said how much he has enjoyed playing Utah over the years.

Will this be Diamond's last show in Utah? I wouldn't bet on it.

"I don't think I'm ever going to stop," he said in a recent interview. "It's the only challenge I have left in my life." —

Review

Neil Diamond, a consumate professional, sings his hits in a two-hour show slightly marred by a muddled sound system that made the words sometimes difficult to hear. That, of course, didn't matter to his many adoring fans, who came to dance and party and didn't leave disappointed.

Where • Rio Tinto Stadium, 9256 S. State St., Sandy

When • Saturday, July 29

Rio Tinto venue makes for muddled sound but enthusiastic crowd didn't seem to mind.
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