Most artists don't have the luxury of entering the stage from an object that shares their name. So who could blame Neil Diamond for revealing himself to the Xcel Energy Center by walking out of a giant digital diamond?
Of course, the 74-year-old pop radio icon could have emerged from any type of mineral and still been treated like a god by the 13,000 believers that all but sold out St. Paul's arena Sunday night. He can't quite do four nights in a row anymore (like he did at the Met Center in 1984 and 1989), but on Sunday he proved that one evening filled with his hits is enough to satisfy.
Slideshow: Neil Diamond Wows the Xcel
The Minnesota stop of the singer's cleverly-titled Neil Diamond Tour 2015 came about halfway through a three-month North American jaunt, so his 13-piece backing band was in fine form all night. And Neil didn't seem tired of recreating the eighth inning of a Boston Red Sox game for the 50th time this year. He kicked the festivities off with everybody's favorite Neil Diamond composition that they didn't know he wrote, "I'm a Believer," and it was sing-along after sing-along from then on, with Diamond strutting across the stage while soaking in the adoration from the baby boomers in the crowd.
"I don't know if I can take all of this screaming. It makes me feel like I'm under 70 again," an appreciative Diamond joked after a few songs, garnering both hearty laughs and nods of agreement. The crooner was never as funny as Will Ferrell's Saturday Night Live caricature of him, but that obligatory age joke -- and a quip about how his wife would cut off a certain body part of his should he do any more than kiss a female fan's hand -- suggested that the day he can no longer belt out "Cracklin' Rosie," he could just crack Rosie up.
The quintessential showman picked up his acoustic guitar just a handful of times, first on "Solitary Man" about a third of the way through the proceedings. This made the gig seem less like a Vegas affair and more like one by a Rock and Roll Hall of Famer. But that notion was wiped away once he rapped that verse in "Red Red Wine" one song later.
1968's "Brooklyn Roads" was the highlight of the night. The song, which a 26-year-old Diamond wrote as an ode to his home borough, was accompanied by home movies and pictures taken by his father that provided a welcome glimpse behind the singer's lyrics and into the everyday life of 1950s New York City.
Favorites like "Desiree" and "Play Me" were met with well-deserved applause, but the same can't be said for the crowd's response when Diamond stated, "We have a new album out." Even less so when he said, "I'd like to play some of it for you." Didn't Neil know that most of the concession stands had closed by then?
Most in attendance weren't aware, but Diamond is actually on tour promoting his 32nd studio album, last autumn's Melody Road. Nothing much was made of his latest effort throughout the two-hour show - save for that three-song section in the middle, when he aired new cuts "Nothing but a Heartache," "In Better Days" and "The Art of Love." The audience's patience through the new material was justly rewarded with "Forever in Blue Jeans" and "Cherry, Cherry," as Neil's music resonated more the farther back in time he went.
It's a testament to the endurance of Diamond's 125-times-platinum (or 12x diamond) catalogue that starting the encore off with a one-two-three punch of "Cracklin' Rosie," "Sweet Caroline" and "America" didn't make it feel like he was backloading the setlist at all. "Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show" may have come off a little too preachy, but a nice take on "Heartlight" sent fans home remembering a gem of a concert.
They don't call him Diamond for nothing.
The Crowd: Of a certain age, but young and hip enough to fill the video board with pre-show Tweets using the hashtag "#TweetCaroline."
Overheard in the Press: I was referenced in the Star Tribune review of the concert as the dude wearing my "hipster Coachella bracelet." Now I can die in peace.
I'm a Believer
Love on the Rocks
Pretty Amazing Grace
You Got to Me
Girl, You'll Be a Woman Soon
Red Red Wine
If You Know What I Mean
Nothing but a Heartache
In Better Days
The Art of Love
Forever in Blue Jeans
I Am... I Said
Brother Love's Traveling Salvation Show
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