Neil Diamond

MGM Grand Garden Arena, Sept. 1

Before the stage lights came up, hundreds of flickering red-and-blue diamond-shaped plastic rings on liver-spotted hands greeted the Jazz Singer and his 11-piece band, plus three backup singers. Opening with Africa-tinged classic “Soolaimon,” arranged in corny Lion King fashion, Diamond looked fit at age 71 with his black leather jacket and blond acoustic. It set the tone for a night of hits—country-thumpin’, upright bass-pumpin’ “Forever in Blue Jeans”; a sax-enhanced “Love on the Rocks”; a nylon-string guitar-kissed “Play Me”; and a rollicking, reggae-fied “Red Red Wine” made to sound like the UB40 cover. It was all pretty rote. Until Diamond dug into “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” and a frail, white-haired lady shuffled to the lip of the stage. Down on hands and knees—then flat on his belly—Diamond held her hand and sang directly to her. Not a typical Grand Garden scene, and I might have wiped away a tear. “I’m telling your husband what you did,” he cracked later. But no amount of levity could undo his powerful spell. ★★★☆☆

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