Monday Smiles – 8/13/2012

The Greek Theater is one of two venerable Los Angeles outdoor entertainment venues built during the late 1920s, the other being the much larger Hollywood Bowl.   The Greek, as we locals call it, is situated in the hills of Griffith Park in L.A. and has hosted a number of iconic performances, perhaps none more iconic than Neil Diamond’s Hot August Night concerts in 1972.  New visitors to the Greek are often surprised by the stacked parking, especially if they try to leave early.  You see, in order to use every inch of parking space, the theater parks cars one behind another in rows with no spaces between.   Late arrivals can find themselves fifty cars deep in a line of cars that have to leave before they can head for the freeways.

Muri and I are not Greek Theater novices, so we arrived an hour and a half before the Neil Diamond Hot August Night 40th Anniversary Show, so we were only a few cars from the front of a row.   However, that meant we were sitting in our seats for almost an hour before the show, and true to the occasion, it was a Hot August Night.   Serious schvitzing, you know?  While we were waiting, a twenty something couple sat down next to us.  I asked them if they didn’t feel a little out of place amongst all the oldsters.  We won the tickets on the radio, they said.  It turns out everyone around us had won their tickets and fortunately for us, one lucky winner had sold his tickets to a broker, where I bought them.  Finally, twenty minutes late, the show started.  Our young couple left halfway through the show, by the way.   Thousands of happy, singing grayhairs scares the hell out of kids … they are afraid the uncoolness might be catching.

Now, to tell the truth, I am not a big fan of Neil Diamond the songwriter.   His tunes tend to be simple and, as a rule, his lyrics are not particularly poetic.  His music isn’t on a frequent playlist in my car, although it does reside on my mp3 player.  There’s even a part of me that is a little embarrassed that a serious music lover like Older Eyes enjoys his concerts.  But Neil Diamond is above all a performer and his performances never fail to delight his fifty-something plus audiences, me included.   There is always a full band with strings and excellent backup singers.  The stage production and lighting is first rate.  His shows are well paced, mixing older and newer songs and alternating faster and slower numbers.   He loves his audience and his audience loves him, hanging on his every word … and knowing every lyric to every song.  I’d probably never put on Sweet Caroline in my car, but it’s fun to sing along with 6,000 happy fans, even when he reprises it three times.   After he finished singing, Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon, he quipped, I used to sing that to fifteen year-olds (the fifty-something audience chuckles).  Now, you’re all there.  Learn to live with it.   The middle-aged plus ladies in his audience did just that, swooning for his love songs and screaming their appreciation.

Saturday night, his encore set included Cracklin’ Rosie, Comin’ to America, Brother Love’s Travelin’ Salvation Show and the quieter closer I’ve Been This Way Before, sung as a thank you to the audience.  We’ve seen him three times and I like the way he closes with something thoughtful, something I might listen to in my car.  It shows confidence as a performer.  You can hear it here:

We had a wonderful time, even with the schvitzing.  It was a perfect anniversary date.  It’s Monday … I’m smiling.

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One Comment on “Monday Smiles – 8/13/2012”

  1. Oh man, I LOVE me some Neil Diamond! I am super jealous!

    PS: schvitzing = one of my all time FAVORITE words.

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