When I was young I was cool, I was king of the cool, late 80’s long overcoat swagger and a flash of cash on my hip, a Morrissey quiff so high that it brushed the clouds, a record collection of LP’s over six foot long and a string of gig attendance that most music journalists would envy. Out I went into the world, twenty one and already the Lord of the flings, girls wanted me and boys wanted to be me, I was the high priest of the NME/Melody Maker reading Indie elite and the world was at my feet…
I had a secret though, one that it took me many years to admit, despite the fact that I had every My Bloody Valentine EP, album and single or the ultra rare white vinyl miss-press of This Charming Man. The album I found myself returning to time and time again was The Jazz Singer by Neil Diamond, yes that’s right folks, never mind the complete Fields Of The Nephilim collection, it was the mighty Neil Diamond that was the true soundtrack to my thundering days of youth.
So it was with near fevered excitement that I got giddy when I found out Mr Diamond was to play Blackpool, it was an ambition that I held that was lifelong to see him. I always thought that I would have to travel to Vegas to see the great man in the flesh, so to be able to him in my hometown was almost a dream like event for me.
I, like seventeen thousand others, filled the Blackpool football stadium with an expectant buzz of anticipated chatter as we waited for the man to tread the stage and fill our ears with some of the finest songwriting ever penned. Huge screens flashed anyone who twittered a message or photo with the hashtag #TweetCaroline and I got my picture up with a dopey grin and I suddenly realised this was really happening, I was about to see a lifelong hero and living musical legend. The irony of people who had spent upwards of seventy pounds for a ticket tweeting anti Oyston messages wasn’t lost on me, if they were that bothered they should have not put the money in his pocket and stayed at home, but the lure of the Diamond was evidently enough to conquer their qualms.
Neil (I feel after the oddly intimate yet epic concert we are on first name terms now) came on stage and the crowd of all ages roared their approval and he blasts off an almighty two and half hours set with I’m A Believer, and three near perfect minutes of pop masterpiece later we all are.
Neil is seventy four now, he plays without a break for the full two and a half hours like he is twenty four, never dropping the energy or the passion that fills his songs, I ran for a bus the other day and was nearly sick in my man bag for the trouble, how he manages to keep that level of energy and belt out the hits at his age is a mystery!
And what a set of songs, from Forever In blue Jeans to Love On The Rocks every single track was solid gold and sung along with by a zealous and lovely warm audience, an audience that Neil has totally in the palm of his hand every second of the show. After so long as a performer Diamond know how to play to the crowd and how to masterfully shift from blisteringly joyful pop classics to heartbreaking and haunting melodies, I’m not ashamed to admit that his family home films during the autobiographical song Brooklyn Roads left me literally in tears, yeah, I fainted the first time I saw Morrissey live, but to be left weeping in a crowd of seventeen thousand people means that Neil really knows how to craft an emotional journey.
An emotional journey indeed was the whole evening for me and for the thousands of others an attendance. He leaves the stage to the loudest applause I’ve ever heard and he comes back to perform an encore that is longer than the whole set for some bands I’ve seen. Cracklin’ Rosie, Sweet Caroline (of course) and the uber anthem of America from The Jazz Singer are among the songs that he finally leaves us with, leaving me with a head and heart full of memories of one of the best nights I’ve ever had.
Yeah I was cool when I was young, but that secret love of Neil Diamond I hid from everyone was actually pretty foolish, if it’s not cool to admit to being a fan and admirer of incredibly well constructed, beautiful and moving, both emotionally and foot tappin’ then I’m happy to be considered past it. So a message to all you hipsters out there, you are missing out on a genuine treat, take off your thick glasses, unroll those turn-ups, shake the quinoa from your beards and get yourself some Diamond in your life, you’ll not regret it.
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