Classic songs between the schmaltz...
In what promises to be a smart marketing move by Eagle Vision, this excellent 'Live in 1976: The Thank You Australia Concert' nicely taps into the startling recent success of Neil Diamond's current US/UK number one album 'Home After Dark'.
It now seems an awful long time ago that after a three year hiatus, Neil Diamond decided to return to touring, in Australia one of his strongest markets. An excellent songwriter and consummate performer, New Yorker Neil Diamond is one of that rare brand of performers who has ridden out the ebbs and flows of fashion and come out the other side with his credibility in tact and critical praise still ringing in his ears for his songs.
What seemed like a career reaffirmation back in '76 proved to be one of a number of highs in an enduring career that finds him belatedly at his most successful, aged 67. In truth this DVD will be a 'must purchase' item for all Diamond fans, and although the soundtrack isn't the best and you can quickly flick past the dubious bonus of an obsequious intro into by David Frost that would have been better suited to the nonsense of a royal occasion, there's an interesting and rare Australian TV interview with Diamond himself.
Neil basically concludes that what you get in the songs is what makes the man. As regards the concert footage, there's far too much schmaltz in the between songs chat, and perhaps one too many 'beautiful's' in his syrupy cabaret style. This applies as much to the back-stage, pre-concert mock Elvis pose as to his slick working of the audience. And yet those annoying features aside, it's the songs that do indeed make the man. And as Diamond's publicity states, 'everyone knows a Neil Diamond song', and how true that is from his breakthrough hit 'Solitary Man' and the beautiful poetic word play of 'Longfellow Serenade' to the poppy 'Cracklin' Rosie' and the powerful 'I Am,I Said'.
When you consider that back in '76, Classic Rock held sway in the US and Punk was beginning to raise its head in the UK, then maybe it took the Australians to remind us all of the true excellence of a master songwriter. For cabaret not, Neil Diamond remains one of the most potent song writers of our time, and this DVD is a fine mid-career appraisal of his enduring talent.
Review by Pete Feenstra