Neil Diamond, National Indoor Arena, Birmingham
Estelle, Custard Factory, Birmingham

Singer-songwriter Neil Diamond is basking in an Indian summer after more than 40 years of magical pop moments

A photograph can tell a thousand lies. The Neil Diamond merchandise stand sells T-shirts bearing the picture of the singer as a young, free spirit – the visual grammar tells you it was 1969 or thereabouts – with a guitar around his neck and flowing feathered hair wafting gently in the breeze.

Which goes to show, surely, just how much the pop industry has learned from Joseph Stalin. It's inconceivable that it hasn't been Photoshopped. The stats may say that he's just turned 67, but Neil Diamond has always been at least 50, right?

His songs, too, have surely always been old. It's impossible to believe that a disc jockey ever said, "And here is the new Neil Diamond single, 'Forever in Blue Jeans'." They've always been around, the staple diet of provincial pub singers, Butlins karaoke nights and wedding discos and jukeboxes.

Similarly, while the biographies may tell us that his Tin Pan Alley years were a rent-paying day job in tandem with an attempt to establish himself as a solo singer-songwriter, the Neil Diamond of the imagination spent the Sixties as a nice, respectful, balding Jewish boy locked away in the Brill Building, penning the pop songs for those crazy Gentiles to swing their hips to. He was around for rock'n'roll, but he never rocked.

He was, however, incredibly prolific. You forget how many great songs he's written. Just the other week I picked up a copy of Lulu's storming single "The Boat That I Row", and there on the old Columbia label is the word "Diamond". Tonight there's no room for "Red Red Wine", even in UB40's home city, although The Monkees' "I'm a Believer" does get a jazzed-up outing.

All of which goes to show that perception's a funny thing. Another photo, of much more recent vintage, tells another story: glance at the B&W pic of Diamond on the front of his latest album, and you'd think it was Johnny Cash. The hipster rehabilitation of Neil Diamond arguably began with Urge Overkill's cover of "Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon", and Hot August Night, the 1972 live album from LA's Greek Theatre, has been belatedly canonised as his 68 Comeback Special, but it's Rick Rubin who has done the most to reposition Diamond, just as he did with Cash.

Neil Diamond's Indian summer is outshining his golden years. It began in 2005 with 12 Songs, a collection of songs that start as strummed demos before swelling into fully realised productions for the final minute. Its successor, Home Before Dark, is a transatlantic No 1 (amazingly, his first in either country), and in "Pretty Amazing Grace", he's scored his first British chart-topping single.

The revisionist Diamond, the rehabilitated Diamond, is mostly absent tonight (although he does play the Rubin material). With his comb-over and glittering jacket, he's a shameless Vegas cheesemeister: the smarmy smiles, the silently mouthed thank-you-so-muches, the wine glass and restaurant table he uses as props for "You Don't Bring Me Flowers", the delving into his schoolboy sword-fencing repertoire for those en-garde poses at climactic moments.

His audience, accordingly, is devoid of hipsters. This is the HRT generation. I've never seen so many people clapping at random, oblivious to the actual beat. But these are his people, and he unquestionably connects with them. A friend of mine calls Diamond "the straight Barry Manilow", but I prefer "a Dylan for the squares".

With that hammy rasp in his voice, he's nothing but sincere. Indeed, he's too sincere, too naive (and, to be fair, too American) to appreciate the puerile phonetic humour of the watersports connotations of a chorus that goes: "Love is all about 'we'."

An old romantic, Diamond always takes the most direct route, and often scores direct hits. I don't think I've ever seen so many people looking so happy as when "Sweet Caroline" hits the chorus. It's a mass orgasm which compels you to accept that, square or not, you're in the presence of one of the greats.

"Everyone thought: '... she's over.'" That's how Estelle remembers her status when John Legend lifted the west London singer/rapper from the dustbin, signed her, took her to New York, and jump-started her career. We're all the winners for it, even if we don't fully appreciate the fact. (The Custard Factory crowd is surprisingly sparse.) Sparkling in a chainmail mini-dress, Estelle Swaray is a far more likeable and charming home-grown alternative to, say, Beyoncé or Rihanna. Unlike her American counterparts she's funny, deliberately mishearing a heckle and replying: "What? I'm fit? Nice legs?"

It's a combination that worked on "1980", her debut hit that managed to make a hard childhood sound idyllic, and on the electro-soul banger "American Boy", one of the most irresistible radio smashes of recent years. "Here's my take on it," she says. "If you see someone and you wanna have sex ... go and have sex."

Arts and Entertainment
Attenborough with the primates
tvWhy BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
Arts and Entertainment
Drake continues to tease ahead of the release of his new album
Arts and Entertainment
Former Communards frontman Jimmy Somerville
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Arts and Entertainment
Fearne Cotton is leaving Radio 1 after a decade
radio The popular DJ is leaving for 'family and new adventures'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

Arts and Entertainment
Olivia Colman and David Tennant star in 'Broadchurch'

TVViewers predict what will happen to Miller and Hardy
Arts and Entertainment
Kevin Spacey and Robin Wright in season two of the series

Watch the new House of Cards series three trailer

Arts and Entertainment
An extract from the sequel to Fight Club

Arts and Entertainment
David Tennant, Eve Myles and Olivia Colman in Broadchurch series two

TV Review
Arts and Entertainment
Old dogs are still learning in 'New Tricks'

Arts and Entertainment
'Tonight we honour Hollywood’s best and whitest – sorry, brightest' - and other Neil Patrick Harris Oscars jokes

Oscars 2015It was the first time Barney has compered the Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Patricia Arquette making her acceptance speech for winning Best Actress Award

Oscars 2015 From Meryl Streep whooping Patricia Arquette's equality speech to Chris Pine in tears

Arts and Entertainment

Oscars 2015 Mexican filmmaker uses speech to urge 'respect' for immigrants

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscar nominations are due to be announced today

Oscars 2015 Bringing you all the news from the 87th Academy Awards

Arts and Entertainment
Lloyd-Hughes takes the leading role as Ralph Whelan in Channel 4's epic new 10-part drama, Indian Summers

TV Review

The intrigue deepens as we delve further but don't expect any answers just yet
Arts and Entertainment
Jason Segal and Cameron Diaz star in Sex Tape

Razzies 2015 Golden Raspberry Awards 'honours' Cameron Diaz and Kirk Cameron

Arts and Entertainment
The Oscars ceremony 2015 will take place at the Dolby Theatre in Los Angeles
Oscars 2015A quiz to whet your appetite for tonight’s 87th Academy Awards
Arts and Entertainment
Sigourney Weaver, as Ripley, in Alien; critics have branded the naming of action movie network Movies4Men as “offensive” and “demographic box-ticking gone mad”.
TVNaming of action movie network Movies4Men sparks outrage
Arts and Entertainment
Sleater Kinney perform at the 6 Music Festival at the O2 Academy, Newcastle
musicReview: 6 Music Festival
Kristen Stewart reacts after receiving the Best Actress in a Supporting Role award for her role in 'Sils Maria' at the 40th annual Cesar awards
A lost Sherlock Holmes story has been unearthed
arts + ents Walter Elliot, an 80-year-old historian, found it in his attic,
Arts and Entertainment
Margot Robbie rose to fame starring alongside Leonardo DiCaprio in The Wolf of Wall Street

Film Hollywood's new leading lady talks about her Ramsay Street days

Arts and Entertainment
Right note: Sam Haywood with Simon Usborne page turning
musicSimon Usborne discovers it is under threat from the accursed iPad
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating

    By clicking 'Search' you
    are agreeing to our
    Terms of Use.

    War with Isis: Fears that the looming battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    The battle for Mosul will unleash 'a million refugees'

    Aid agencies prepare for vast exodus following planned Iraqi offensive against the Isis-held city, reports Patrick Cockburn
    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    Yvette Cooper: We can't lose the election. There's too much on the line

    The shadow Home Secretary on fighting radical Islam, protecting children, and why anyone in Labour who's thinking beyond May must 'sort themselves out'
    A bad week for the Greens: Leader Natalie Bennett's 'car crash' radio interview is followed by Brighton council's failure to set a budget due to infighting

    It's not easy being Green

    After a bad week in which its leader had a public meltdown and its only city council couldn't agree on a budget vote, what next for the alternative party? It's over to Caroline Lucas to find out
    Gorillas nearly missed: BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter

    Gorillas nearly missed

    BBC producers didn't want to broadcast Sir David Attenborough's famed Rwandan encounter
    Downton Abbey effect sees impoverished Italian nobles inspired to open their doors to paying guests for up to €650 a night

    The Downton Abbey effect

    Impoverished Italian nobles are opening their doors to paying guests, inspired by the TV drama
    China's wild panda numbers have increased by 17% since 2003, new census reveals

    China's wild panda numbers on the up

    New census reveals 17% since 2003
    Barbara Woodward: Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with the growing economic superpower

    Our woman in Beijing builds a new relationship

    Britain's first female ambassador to China intends to forge strong links with growing economic power
    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer. But the only British soldier to be awarded the Victoria Cross in Afghanistan has both

    Courage is rare. True humility is even rarer

    Beware of imitations, but the words of the soldier awarded the Victoria Cross were the real thing, says DJ Taylor
    Alexander McQueen: The catwalk was a stage for the designer's astonishing and troubling vision

    Alexander McQueen's astonishing vision

    Ahead of a major retrospective, Alexander Fury talks to the collaborators who helped create the late designer's notorious spectacle
    New BBC series savours half a century of food in Britain, from Vesta curries to nouvelle cuisine

    Dinner through the decades

    A new BBC series challenged Brandon Robshaw and his family to eat their way from the 1950s to the 1990s
    Philippa Perry interview: The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course

    Philippa Perry interview

    The psychotherapist on McDonald's, fancy specs and meeting Grayson Perry on an evening course
    Bill Granger recipes: Our chef recreates the exoticism of the Indonesian stir-fry

    Bill Granger's Indonesian stir-fry recipes

    Our chef was inspired by the south-east Asian cuisine he encountered as a teenager
    Chelsea vs Tottenham: Harry Kane was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope

    Harry Kane interview

    The striker was at Wembley to see Spurs beat the Blues and win the Capital One Cup - now he's their great hope
    The Last Word: For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?

    Michael Calvin's Last Word

    For the good of the game: why on earth don’t we leave Fifa?
    HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

    Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

    Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?