ROCK / Diamond is a girl's best friend: Giles Smith on self-assertion, shouting and sentimentality with Neil Diamond at the Wembley Arena

BEFORE THE show, they piped some classical music through the PA, like they do on planes to calm you down before take-off. There was even something in the way of a reassuring pre-flight announcement. 'Mr Diamond will perform without intermission. Please note the exit nearest you and follow the directions of the stewards.' Not that these pieces of information were related in any way.

With a greatest hits compilation in the Top 10 and a string of dates at the Wembley Arena, Neil Diamond would appear to be one of this summer's most popular destinations. Certainly nobody was scrambling for the exits when Mozart was suddenly swallowed by a synthesiser fanfare, and the man charged on, heading directly up the ramp to the podium in the middle. You sensed he had put a lot of work into this entrance, hunching over slightly, like someone running out from under the blades of a helicopter, but gradually straightening up and timing it perfectly, so that when he hit centre stage, he was at full height and could freeze like a statue with his arms spread out.

Then he was off again, down the stairs to the outer rim to say some preliminary hellos, either holding his palms out, or pointing at people as if to say 'oh, you're here'. And only then, with lasers criss-crossing in the audience and lights turning the stage-floor into a kaleidoscope, did he snatch up the microphone and start singing. 'Check out the view from above,' he advised us; climb those 'mountains of love'.

The stage sat plumb in the middle of the arena and turned like a gentle carousel, bringing Neil nearer to us all. Every three minutes or so he passed right under your nose. But the added plus, for the real fans (mostly women - for Diamond is a girl's best friend - though a lot of men were on their feet too) was that, in a way a conventional setting never could, this arrangement granted everyone long periods in which to contemplate the Diamond backside.

To be frank, for considerable portions of the show it was debatable which was in better shape - the bum or the voice. Diamond regularly abandoned warmth in favour of a gravelly bark. He also tended, during some of the more popular choruses, to give up on the singing altogether and to shout the words instead. In 'Sweet Caroline', for instance: 'Hands touching hands - yeah - reaching out - yeah'.

The hits were piled high ('Beautiful Noise', 'Forever in Blue Jeans', 'Love on the Rocks'), while a couple of newer songs tried in vain to peep between them. After two hours, the show hit a trick climax with that unabashed piece of self-assertion 'I Am, I Said', but then lurched on again, at which point it was possible to feel that Diamond is indeed forever. Still, if 'Song Sung Blue' is the musical equivalent of a padded Valentine's card, don't forget its author also wrote 'I'm A Believer' for The Monkees and 'Red Red Wine', which UB40 had a hit with.

'I'm proud to do their reggae version,' said Diamond, which seemed big-hearted of him. The band went into a mild lope which made even UB40's neutered version of reggae sound threatening. But then we reached the toasting section of the song, and Diamond dug the barb in: 'even if the words weren't understood,' he chanted, 'everybody got to have some fun.' It was a charmless moment, and one which had you wondering whether you shouldn't perhaps summon a steward.

(Photograph omitted)

Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne with his Screen Actors Guild award for Best Actor

film
Arts and Entertainment
Rowan Atkinson is bringing out Mr Bean for Comic Relief

TV
Arts and Entertainment

Theatre

Arts and Entertainment
V&A museum in London

Art Piece taken off website amid 'severe security alert'

Arts and Entertainment
Over their 20 years, the band has built a community of dedicated followers the world over
music
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment

ebooksNow available in paperback
Arts and Entertainment

ebooks
Arts and Entertainment
Reese Witherspoon starring in 'Wild'

It's hard not to warm to Reese Witherspoon's heroismfilm
Arts and Entertainment
Word up: Robbie Coltrane as dictionary guru Doctor Johnson in the classic sitcom Blackadder the Third
books

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

Oscars 2015
Arts and Entertainment
Hacked off: Maisie Williams in ‘Cyberbully’

Maisie Williams single-handedly rises to the challenge

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Eddie Redmayne in The Theory of Everything and Benedict Cumberbatch in The Imitation Game are both nominated at the Bafta Film Awards
Arts and Entertainment

Academy criticised after no non-white actors nominated

Arts and Entertainment
Damian Lewis shooting a scene as Henry VIII in Wolf Hall
TV

Arts and Entertainment
A history of violence: ‘Angry, White and Proud’ looked at the rise of far-right groups

tv

An expose of hooliganism masquerading as an ideological battle

Arts and Entertainment

art

Lee Hadwin can't draw when he's awake, but by night he's an artist

Arts and Entertainment

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Keaton in the 1998 Beetlejuice original

film

Arts and Entertainment

TV

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

TV

Arts and Entertainment
Michael Kitchen plays Christopher Foyle in ITV's 'Foyle's War'

TV
Arts and Entertainment

TV
Arts and Entertainment
Downton Abbey star Joanne Froggatt will be starring in Dominic Savage's new BBC drama The Secrets

Arts and Entertainment
Vividly drawn: Timothy Spall in Mike Leigh’s ‘Mr Turner’
film
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

ES Rentals

    Independent Dating
    and  

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

    Syria crisis: Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more refugees as one young mother tells of torture by Assad regime

    Celebrities call on David Cameron to take more Syrian refugees

    One young mother tells of torture by Assad regime
    The enemy within: People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back – with promising results

    The enemy within

    People who hear voices in their heads are being encouraged to talk back
    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    'In Auschwitz you got used to anything'

    Survivors of the Nazi concentration camp remember its horror, 70 years on
    Autumn/winter menswear 2015: The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore

    Autumn/winter menswear 2015

    The uniforms that make up modern life come to the fore
    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    'I'm gay, and plan to fight military homophobia'

    Army general planning to come out
    Iraq invasion 2003: The bloody warnings six wise men gave to Tony Blair as he prepared to launch poorly planned campaign

    What the six wise men told Tony Blair

    Months before the invasion of Iraq in 2003, experts sought to warn the PM about his plans. Here, four of them recall that day
    25 years of The Independent on Sunday: The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century

    25 years of The Independent on Sunday

    The stories, the writers and the changes over the last quarter of a century
    Homeless Veterans appeal: 'Really caring is a dangerous emotion in this kind of work'

    Homeless Veterans appeal

    As head of The Soldiers' Charity, Martin Rutledge has to temper compassion with realism. He tells Chris Green how his Army career prepared him
    Wu-Tang Clan and The Sexual Objects offer fans a chance to own the only copies of their latest albums

    Smash hit go under the hammer

    It's nice to pick up a new record once in a while, but the purchasers of two latest releases can go a step further - by buying the only copy
    Geeks who rocked the world: Documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry

    The geeks who rocked the world

    A new documentary looks back at origins of the computer-games industry
    Belle & Sebastian interview: Stuart Murdoch reveals how the band is taking a new direction

    Belle & Sebastian is taking a new direction

    Twenty years ago, Belle & Sebastian was a fey indie band from Glasgow. It still is – except today, as prime mover Stuart Murdoch admits, it has a global cult following, from Hollywood to South Korea
    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    America: Land of the free, home of the political dynasty

    These days in the US things are pretty much stuck where they are, both in politics and society at large, says Rupert Cornwell
    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A graphic history of US civil rights – in comic book form

    A veteran of the Fifties campaigns is inspiring a new generation of activists
    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    Winston Churchill: the enigma of a British hero

    A C Benson called him 'a horrid little fellow', George Orwell would have shot him, but what a giant he seems now, says DJ Taylor
    Growing mussels: Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project

    Growing mussels

    Precious freshwater shellfish are thriving in a unique green project