Sweet night for Diamond fans
Crowds turn up for night of folksy nostalgia
THERE were the predicted empty seats on view at the Aviva Stadium, but Neil Diamond's fans shone through for him in the end.
A massive radio publicity campaign has been relentlessly promoting his gig with Dublin's own Mary Byrne for months.
Despite a presumption that the massive advertising blitz meant tickets weren't shifting, by Saturday night the Aviva was at least near to full capacity for the show. The few rows of green seats were far outweighed by tiers of fans shielding their eyes against rare summer sun.
It was yet another homecoming for Byrne, the 'X Factor' contestant who was propelled from the Tesco checkout to fame. Byrne's recent collection of slick karaoke covers topped the album Irish charts, and backstage she received a coveted platinum disc.
But while the adverts gave almost equal weight to Diamond and Ballyfermot belter Byrne, most punters seemed to have been drawn in by the former.
"I enjoyed her (Byrne) but Neil Diamond was the one I came to see," said one woman.
"She has a fantastic voice," said another. "But I thought Neil Diamond was great. He played all the hits. What more could you want?"
With temperatures north of 20C, conditions were ideal for an evening of feel-good stadium pop. Seeing a star in a big arena can be a bit like watching television through a neighbour's lace curtains -- you catch the gist but there is a deadening sense of experiencing things at several removes.
However, the Aviva's compact dimensions allied to Diamond's winning brand of folksiness, meant that no matter where you were in the house, you felt connected to what was happening on stage.
Given that a fair chunk of the audience were of the same generation as 70-year-old Diamond, this was never going to be a night of reckless abandon. Nonetheless, the crowd wasn't slow to convey its appreciation.
Two songs in and most of the stadium was on its feet, clapping along. One punter was so excited he dashed -- well, walked carefully -- to the front, to hand the singer a green-tinted bottle of lager.
Diamond expressed surprise it wasn't a Guinness but took a grateful chug all the same.
As dramatic moments go, it wasn't up there with Bono removing his mirror shades at Glastonbury and terrifying us with his crows' feet.
Still, it was useful to be reminded that, under the rhinestone exterior, a little part of Diamond remains the blue collar New Yorker who, on a hot night in June, enjoys nothing more than a cold beer.
Review, page 31