Neil Diamond pulled nary a punch at Fenway Park Saturday night. First song: “Sweet Caroline”— that curious Fenway anthem that booms throughout the park in the middle of every eighth inning, no matter what the score. An hour later, Diamond — slim and trim at 67, attired entirely in black, trousers and sequined shirt — played the thing again “for anyone who came late to the show.” And then, one more time — or at least the opening verse and some choruses.
This is almost as shameless as having your new, semi-introspective album played through the PA before the show, which was done with Home Before Dark, a damn good, Rick Rubin–produced CD of exquisite melodies, spare arrangements, and penetrating lyrics. Later, Diamond did a compelling three-song set from that album, a creative apex that nevertheless sent many old-schoolers to the restrooms and beer stands.
The set offered a handful of songs Diamond wrote for others (“I’m a Believer,” “Kentucky Woman”) and a boatload of his own hits: “Holly Holy,” “Love on the Rocks,” “Play Me,” “I Am . . . I Said,” “Cherry, Cherry,” and the final blast of “Brother Love’s Travelin’ Salvation Show.” We got treacle, we got bombast, and that resonant baritone let us forgive most of it — but is it possible not to hear the dissonance now in “America”?
Diamond’s demographic, it seems, is 20s-70s. “My father and mother listened to Neil on eight-track,” said thirtysomething Erin, at the show with a group of Woburn and Wilmington pals. “We’re old-school,” added Jim, “My first concert was Neil Diamond in 1983, in third grade.”
The fans, they went crazy. Walter, a Boston music-business attorney/activist and long-time Diamond fan, marveled at it all: “The people I was sitting with, it was like no one had let them out of the house for a year. They were going berserk.”
“I’m 43,” said Marina, from Wakefield. “I’d rather see him than freakin’ Steven Tyler.”