Neil Diamond is still a gem

Even at 71, Neil Diamond knows how to shine in concert, as he proved again to a packed house at the Mohegan Sun Arena Saturday night.
The singer performed a two-hour show with no intermission and ended with just as much energy as he started. And the audience — which trended toward middle-aged, to be kind — was locked in to the show every step of the way.

The show got off to a bit of a subdued start, thanks in part to starting with three songs that don’t rate as Diamond classics. But the fourth song, “Forever in Blue Jeans,” raised the energy level in the 10,000-seat venue significantly.

Diamond, clad in a sparkly purple jacket and black jeans, was in fine voice throughout the concert. Was his voice as rich as in his heyday of the 1960s and ’70s? Of course not.

But, ever the showman, Diamond knows how to get his songs across to his fans. At points it seemed he was almost talking the lyrics instead of singing them, but on most numbers Diamond hit all the right notes.

He also knows how to work a crowd, never forgetting to play to the people with seats behind the stage. In fact, on “Forever in Blue Jeans,” he even had his band re-play the last verses so he could sing it to them.

Diamond played many, but not all, of his best-known songs, including 14 of his singles that made the Top 20 on the charts. One notable song missing was “Song Sung Blue,” which was one of his three No. 1 hits (the others were “Cracklin’ Rosie” and “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” his duet with Barbra Streisand).

Still, with nearly five decades of hits to choose from, Diamond did a good job of mixing the ballads and the uptempo numbers, including once on the same song. He sang “I’m a Believer” first as a slow song, as he had written it, before leading his 11-piece band in a version more in tune with the version that was a hit for The Monkees.

The one song that raised the roof on the arena and had everybody on their feet was “Sweet Caroline.” That’s not surprising when he performs deep in the heart of Red Sox Nation, which has adopted the tune as its anthem.

The set list

Soolaimon/Done Too Soon/Beautiful Noise/Forever in Blue Jeans/Love on the Rocks/Play Me/Hello Again/Shiloh/Red Red Wine/You Got to Me/Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon/Cherry, Cherry/Glory Road/Solitary Man/I’m a Believer/September Morn/You Don’t Bring Me Flowers/Crunchy Granola Suite/Morningside/Holly Holy/Sweet Caroline/I Am, I Said

Encore: Cracklin’ Rosie/America/Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show/I’ve Been This Way Before