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Neil Diamond sings to the hearts of 17,000

Published: Monday, July 30 2012 4:47 p.m. MDT

2012 NEIL DIAMOND TOUR; one night only, July 28; Rio Tinto Stadium; 2 hours 15 minutes, no intermission

SALT LAKE CITY — He's only a man standing in the center of the stage rocking on his guitar, but he held the hearts and attention of the more than 17,000 fans at Rio Tinto Stadium for more than two hours.

They cheered him, sang along with him and basically adored this 71-year-old music man who's supposedly approaching the end of his five-decade career.

You'd never know it.

Diamond sings and moves with the energy of a much younger entertainer. He has no problem with the famous high notes or passages that only he can create.

He belts out the big ones, and he caresses the softer ones with a tone and sound that makes a girl cry.

"This is a love song," he said about "Shiloh," but it was obvious from the crowd's reaction that, for them, every song was a love song from "Beautiful Noise" and "Money Talks" to "Love on the Rocks" and "You Don't Bring Me Flowers."

Everybody joined in on "Sweet Caroline," forcing Diamond to keep coming back for another verse even after he announced that he "didn't like that song so much anymore" and left those in the audience to sing it on their own for a while.

Diamond is the consummate professional, connecting with the crowd almost the instant he steps onto the stage.

He had the moves, the music and the charisma of the seasoned, confident performer (as he well should after the career he's had filled with chart toppers and awards including induction into the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame).

Diamond is obviously at home with the Utah crowd, crooning a "Hello Again" version that he shaped to fit the moment, followed by a medley centered around a barely recognizable "Red, Red Wine."

He pointed out that Gov. Gary Herbert and his wife were in the audience and asked if the governor could help with the man in his hotel keeping him up at night with bad karaoke music.

He disclosed his recent marriage, telling the audience he sings "I'm a Believer" for her, though it was written before she was born. He shared his granddaughter Lilly's birthday song with the crowd.

Throughout the evening, Diamond was warm and funny and on stage, never letting on that he's been touring and performing his dream for many years since his "semi-retirement" in 1977.

The audience only let him off the stage after multiple encores: "I Am, I Said," "Cracklin' Rose" and "Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show" after a series of songs from his "Hot August Night" remastered album (released on its 40th anniversary July 31).

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