TORONTO - They just don’t make them like Neil Diamond anymore.
The 71-year-old king of finely crafted, if often schmaltzy, pop for the last 50 years pulled into the Air Canada Centre on Tuesday for an evening of his greatest hits.
And you can kind of guess the response from the thousands gathered.
“Are you ready to rock tonight?” said the singer, decked out in a black suit with blue sequined black shirt. “We’re ready to make some beautiful noise for you.”
That’s what Diamond and company did for the next two hours and five minutes.
“Oh, yes!” mouthed the intense and dramatic singer, his face a perma-grin after he kicked off the show with the old chestnut, Sooliamon (African Trilogy II). Then he moved into into more familiar hits like Beautiful Noise, Forever In Blue Jeans, Love On The Rocks, Play Me and Hello Again.
“How great is it for me to be back here in Canada,” said the New York-born Diamond. “This is my second home.”
He then explained he used to send postcards when he was 11 years saying he wanted to live in Canada.
“I knew I would come back,” said Diamond, who has been a frequent visitor over the years.
He definitely had one major female fan at the front of the stage who was dancing enthusiastically by herself to You Got To Me.
For her efforts, Diamond knelt down on his hands and knees on stage and kissed her on the mouth.
“Careful, you’ll hurt yourself,” he said afterwards. “And your husband will come after me.”
Diamond, whose hand and arm gestures were worthy of an Olympic skater, then kicked things up a notch with Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon, Cherry, Cherry and Solitary Man before performing his first big hit, I’m a Believer, the song he originally composed, but was performed by The Monkees in 1966.
“If you don’t like it, I’ll stop and move on,” he said of his slower, ballad version and I think he meant it. He’s definitely the master of the slow-building song.
Look no further than Holly Holy, Sweet Caroline - which was done no fewer than three times (Diamond is not above milking a mega-hit) - I Am ... I Said.
For the encore, a trio of uptempo anthems - Cracklin’ Rosie, America, which he dedicated to his grandmother who he said inspired everything he’s ever done, and Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show - were followed by the heartfelt show ender I’ve Been This Way Before and an exit reminsicent of a head of state.
Soolaimon (African Trilogy II)
Done Too Soon
Forever in Blue Jeans
Love on the Rocks
Red Red Wine
You Got To Me
Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon
Cherry, Cherry (with band solos)
I’m a Believer (done as a ballad)
You Don’t Bring Me Flowers (with Linda Press) Crunchy Granola Suite Morningside
Sweet Caroline reprise
Sweet Caroline (audience on their own)
I Am ... I Said
America (dedicated to his grandmother)
Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show I’ve Been This Way Before