It had been a long day getting to LaGuardia Airport through morning thunder-snow and rain in New York, catching the flight to Houston, and finally making it to Conroe for last Saturday night’s Montgomery County Performing Arts presentation of A Tribute to Neil Diamond starring Rob Garrett. The packed house at the Crighton Theatre was full of Diamond fans that, by night’s end, would have to agree that this was “the next best thing” to spending a night with Neil himself. The music, the unique sound, and the explosive energy associated with a Diamond concert were all part of this winning tribute to the great man himself. No wonder Mr. Garrett has become known as the King of Diamonds during his many years of performing the star’s work with the “Legends” shows in Las Vegas, and then with this show of his own on tour to countless cities around the globe. It was lucky for Conroe to have been next in line.
Dressed in rhinestone-belted black tuxedo trousers, with a dark blue and glittering, Vegas-style blouse, Garrett was not alone in recreating the Diamond magic with the support of a fine band featuring rhythm and bass guitars, drums, keyboard, and a fine singer named Rosanna who would handle all tambourine accompaniments. She would later join Garrett for a fine rendition of the duet that sent the pairing of Mr. Diamond and Barbra Streisand to the top of the Billboard charts with 1978’s “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers.” [Garrett explained with a chuckle that Streisand had wanted two million dollars to join him for this performance.] That hit song, (written by Diamond in collaboration with Alan and Marilyn Bergman), was originally slated to be the theme for the short-lived TV show, All That Glitters, but the tune had to settle for becoming a pop classic instead. Incidentally, all the songs on the evening’s program were written by Diamond or in collaboration with others.
Familiar Diamond selections performed included a show highlight requiring a volunteer “victim” from the audience who would be ready for some “romantic fun” onstage. Mr. Garrett chose well with a sweet older woman whose name was, I believe, Shirley. Garrett first put her at ease with some amusing banter, and then serenaded her with the intimacies of his hit song “Play Me.” The audience enjoyed it almost as much as adorable Shirley, while Garrett danced her around on a center stage with rosy backlighting. A high-energy “Shiloh” followed and clearly established Garrett’s skill at replicating the unique qualities of the Diamond sound. There was a hand-clapping, “I’m a Believer,” a warmly romantic, “September Morn,” a nod to the Bluegrass State with “Kentucky Woman,” and a lively rendition of, “Cherry, Cherry.”
Next came a pleasant nostalgia trip with, “If You Know What I Mean,” and then the artist offered what he described as the Diamond tune that was “closest to country,” with the joyful audience sing-a-long of another hand-clapper, “Forever in Blue Jeans.” The desperation of “Love On the Rocks,” featured plenty of Garrett’s whip-cracking gestures, which did become a bit tiresome and overused during the show. The audience had yet another chance to join in the singing with the very popular, “Sweet Caroline.” There was an ever-rising crescendo for the thrilling excitement of “Holly Holy,” and a high-powered “Cracklin’ Rosie” had perhaps a bit too much cracklin’ as the audio seemed a bit distorted for that number.
Things began to wind down with the poignant and soul searching, “I Am…I Said,” and soon it was on to the inevitable, “Coming to America,” and the standing ovation that followed. I think Neil would have been proud.
The next MCPAS event will be the 30th YOUNG TEXAS ARTISTS MUSIC COMPETITION FINALISTS CONCERT & AWARDS to be held on Saturday, March 8th at 7:30 p.m. For tickets and information call 936-441-SHOW or visit the websites, crightontheatre.com and youngtexasartists.org.
The columns of David Dow Bentley III have appeared on Broadway websites, in newspapers from the East Coast to the Gulf Coast, and may be viewed online at the website: www.ThePeoplesCritic.com
E-mail may be directed to ThePeoplesCritic@earthlink.net