Here’s one certainty you can count on: Neil Diamond’s almost uncanny ownership of the road.
When the pop singer-songwriter tours, he fills houses. Even when others’ music is more in vogue on the radio — and that has been the case since “Heartlight,” his last Top 10 hit single way back in 1982 — Diamond’s box office pull rules.
Diamond was crowned a Billboard Legend of Live honoree in 2012, Billboard’s highest accolade for touring artists. This love on the road addiction seems to have no end date — for the star or his fans — and has been going on for at least as long as the release of his landmark 1972 live set, “Hot August Night.”
Diamond delivers. For this 50th anniversary trek — even if it’s pegged to the release of his first single, “Solitary Man,” from 1966, which is more than 51 years ago (he’s a pop star; never said anything about his mathematical skills) — he is paging through his vast songbook.
Diamond’s set list features about 28 songs, and most of them are hits you know well, including “Love on the Rocks,” “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “I Am…I Said” and “Play Me.” The newest song? “Pretty Amazing Grace” from his first Billboard No. 1 album, “Home Before Dark,” in 2008.
You’ll also get a glimpse into some of Diamond’s preferences. Seems he favors his 1976 Robbie Robertson-produced album, “Beautiful Noise,” because he’s been doing no fewer than three songs from the LP on each date so far. In Tampa, on April 23, he did four in a row: the title track, “Jungletime,” the angst-filled “If You Know What I Mean” and “Dry Your Eyes.”
He also seems to dig his 1973 soundtrack to “Jonathan Livingston Seagull.” Three songs — “Be,” “Lonely Looking Sky” and “Skybird” — have been regulars on the tour’s dates.
Make a statement
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Diamond’s rousing anthem “America” figures as the encore’s penultimate performance. He has performed “The Jazz Singer” standout live at least 1,166 times through April 23, ever since its first appearance on concert setlist on Dec. 7, 1981, in Arizona.
Stand up and sing along and make yourself heard: On the boats and on the planes/They’re coming to America…Got a dream to take them there/They’re coming to America/Got a dream they’ve come to share/They’re coming to America.
A family affair
Diamond’s music crosses the generations. Everyone, young and old, sings along to “Sweet Caroline.”
You might even spot Diamond’s mother Rose, a young 98, in the house. She lives in South Florida.
“Unfortunately, Dad passed away. But both of my parents were big supporters, and it was nice to have them at my show,” Diamond told the Miami Herald in a 2008 pre-Sunrise concert interview. “Now, my mom, it’s great to have her there. She doesn’t watch me. She’s facing the audience and seeing how they are responding. She never watches me.”
Besides being a home for his mom, South Florida has had an allure for the Brooklyn-born superstar for 50 years.
“I’ve been playing Miami and South Florida and Florida, as a whole, for years. Since the beginning of my touring, my first professional dates were in Florida. I played Tampa and St. Petersburg and Clearwater was my first professional paid date,” Diamond said in the 2008 interview.
“I love Florida. The people have been great to me. It’s a beautiful state.”