Arts

Review: Neil Diamond, SSE Arena, Belfast

I love you Belfast – US singer-songwriter Neil Diamond at the SSE Arena on Sunday night Picture: Cliff Donaldson

I'M GOING to be honest here, if I were playing the dead or alive game, I'd have had Neil Diamond as a goner. But not only is he alive and well, at the age of 76 he's in fine voice and selling out arenas as part of his 50th anniversary tour.

The SSE Arena was jumping for Sunday night's appearance of the Love on the Rocks singer. Now when I say jumping I mean more gentle swaying so as not to damage a dodgy hip.

For if you want to make yourself feel young, get to a Neil Diamond concert. There were more grey and baldy heads on display than you'd see at a Tory party conference.

The Brooklyn-born icon, while moving at a glacial pace, is still in fine voice. His melodic tunes must be programmed into every one of us at birth for I quickly realised I knew almost every word.

He was charming and his female fans, many in their twilight years, were beside themselves with glee every time he pointed in their direction. He's aged well both physically and vocally as, with a suspiciously full head of hair, he churned out hit after hit with all the verve of a man half his age.

A wee woman behind me was on her feet with a walking stick bopping it out big style to Song Sung Blue. If the man from the dole was there her DLA is in serious jeopardy.

You Don't Bring Me Flowers had everyone singing along, as did Dry Your Eyes, which he dedicated to the victims of recent terror attacks in Manchester and Las Vegas.

Few things in life will ever top the sight of thousands of pensioners waving their Tesco mobile phones in the air to a soft rock ballad sung by the legend that is Neil Diamond. It was a beautiful and quite surreal thing.

You'll Be A Woman Soon made Neil Diamond cool again when used in the soundtrack of cult classic Pulp Fiction, but it's for Sweet Caroline that he's best known, so no surprise he left the best until last.

Belting it out as an encore, in perfect voice, it was a brilliant end to an hilariously kitsch and joyful evening's entertainment.

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