Written by Dave Clements
ImageIt was just another ho hum long holiday weekend in the life of this roaming photographer in Houston, TX.   Beginning with Friday night, I had the opportunity to experience a performance by one of the favorite artists ever, Keb’ Mo’.  I last saw him when he opened for Bonnie Raitt at the Bayou Music Center several years ago.  I was blown away by his soulful talent and he very nearly stole the show.  As impressive as he was then, he was even better at Friday night’s show at Dosey Doe’s Big Barn venue.

Then I was asked to shoot the international comic convention known as Comicpalooza over the weekend.  So I headed to the George R. Brown Convention Center on Saturday to witness the madness.  Didn’t know what to expect and am hard pressed to adequately describe it.  Some crazy fun is as close as I can get.  It’s more than just comic books, it’s comics, sci-fi and fantasy characters in costumes, gaming, film, and more.  Lots going on and enjoyable to photograph!

Then Memorial Day Monday night the Houston Rockets and the unforgiving weather made it even more memorable!  Down three games to zip in their playoff series, the Rockets pulled off a brilliant home town win against Oakland in the Toyota Center.  While they were accomplishing this feat a massive storm was dumping too much water on the downtown streets.  The home team fans at Toyota had to shelter in place, many until early Tuesday morning.

And they left just before it was time for Neil Diamond’s crew to load in to Toyota Center for the Houston stop of his tour.  This is really where this review should begin.  But the aforementioned should help explain why Neil Diamond almost didn’t make his own show.  He was traveling by air into that same stormy weather.  And the weather also explains why there were more empty seats than you would expect.  This music icon, who hadn’t been to Houston in a number of years, should have been the highlight for many fans of this entertainment packed weekend.

But all’s well that ends well.  At 8:29 pm Tuesday night Neil Diamond took the stage at Toyota Center and gave a terrific performance.  What may have been lacking in numbers in the audience, he more than made up for on stage.  He did not come alone!  He had a horn sections, lot of guitars and players, keyboards, drummers, synthesizers, and backup singers.  Welcome to the party!

Neil began the set with I’m a Believer (also made popular by The Monkees) , then went right into Love on the Rocks and Hello Again.  He got to all of my favorites.  One of those was Play Me about half way through the set.  Beautiful classic lyrics “you are the sun, I am the moon, you are the words, I am the tune, play me.’   Good stuff!  But best yet, the last song before the encore, I Am…I Said.  Passionate singing that is uniquely Neil Diamond’s style.  Perfect.

He also played a new song called The Art of Love for his new album Melody Road.  In his introduction Neil said, ‘’Five years to write, three minutes to sing”.  A lament I’m sure many songwriters share.   I liked the song, especially with lyrics like ‘love’s not what you have, but what you give’.   Reminds me of that great Clint Black song ‘Something That We Do’.  (If you’re not familiar with it, check it out.)

ImageNeil Diamond was a class act and catered to ALL of his fans.  He took time out to sing to people seated in the side sections.  I appreciated this personally since I was seated there as well.  I also like that he joked about his age.  His comment was ‘I like it (audience) when you are over active….it makes me feel 70 again.’   Just so you know, I would not have ever guessed he was 74.  His voice was so strong and his movements on stage energetic.  He’s well on his way to being just like Tony Bennett who, at 89, is astonishingly ageless.

The only disappointment of the evening for me was the very lengthy band member introductions.  This occurred a few songs before the end of the set during Cherry, Cherry.   Guess it was a gracious thing for Mr. Diamond to do, but with over a dozen players it was definitely detracted from the entertainment!

There was a generous five song encore.  The highlight, I think most fans would agree, was Sweet Caroline.  Already a favorite sing along tune for many, it gained even more recognition after the Boston Marathon bombings in 2013.  It had for years been an 8th inning ritual of the Boston Red Sox games in Fenway Park.  After the bombings, it was played at multiple sporting events across the country as an honor and remembrance of those who suffered during that horrible event.

Much thanks to Mr. Neil Diamond for topping off a most memorable Memorial Day weekend with an excellent show.

Until next time remember there is no time to kill.