You’d be hard pressed to find anyone who sits on the fence as far as Neil Diamond is concerned—you either like him or don’t. No matter what side one occupies, there’s no denying that the man possesses enormous songwriting talent. Certainly the scores of Diamond-penned Top 40 hits would attest to that fact.
Before Diamond set out to carve his niche as a solo artist he was employed in the early ‘60s as a $50/week staff songwriter for Sunbeam Music. His first major chart success came courtesy of The Monkees when they recorded his “I’m a Believer” and “A Little Bit Me, A Little Bit You”, taking both songs to #1. It was this crowning achievement that gave Diamond the confidence to pursue a career as a singer/songwriter. His husky baritone voice would prove to be the perfect vehicle to drive his brand of self-styled pop.
With the release of “Solitary Man” in 1966, Diamond began a run on the charts that would last for more than a decade. Hit albums like Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show, Touching You-Touching Me, Stones, Moods and the ambitious Tap Root Manscript spawned classics such as “Cracklin Rosie”, “I Am…I Said”, “Holly Holy”, “Play Me”, “Song Sung Blue”, “Crunchy Granola Suite” and perhaps his most identifiable number, “Sweet Caroline”. With such accessible, radio-friendly material, Diamond garnered not only commercial success but critical success as well, establishing himself as a songwriting force to be reckoned with. But it was the release of the double-live Hot August Night in 1972 that solidified his reputation as a compelling and energetic performer.
The Greek Theatre, strategically nestled amidst a picturesque, tree-lined canyon overlooking the City of Angels (Los Angeles) welcomed Neil Diamond for a 10-night stand. This hallowed open-air venue had hosted its share of memorable performances in it’s illustrious 70 year history, but Diamond’s August shows would arguably be one of it’s finest. Diamond’s dynamic performance is showcased on Hot August Night, recently remastered and reissued to feature 23 tracks including three previously unreleased tracks in “Kentucky Woman”, “Walk On Water” and “Stones”.
Although Diamond continued to churn out hits into the ‘80s, this performance captured the artist at the pinnacle of his storied career, displaying his brilliance as an exhilarating live performer. The two-disc set brings forth the emotion and intensity of a Neil Diamond show. From the warm orchestral introduction of “Prologue/Crunchy Granola Suite” to raucous encore of “Soolaimon” and the gospel-flavored “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show”, Diamond cleverly balances the evening with a sweet mixture of his classic songs while consistently maintaining an aire of spontaneity.
Whether you like Neil Diamond or not, he is legend. And after almost 40 years in the business, he still performs to sellout crowds all over the world. Whether it’s Australia in February or Las Vegas in October, you can bet that his audiences are always treated to performances that are as hot as an August night.
// Notes from the Road
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