Neil Diamond worked hard to please the Mother’s Day crowd at KeyArena Sunday, singing hits he has written for others as well as for himself.

Share story

Neil Diamond turned into a human jukebox at KeyArena on Sunday (May 10), providing a reminder that he’s written hits for other artists as well as himself. He opened with his version of “I’m a Believer” (a hit for TV pop band The Monkees) and got the audience dancing to the reggae swing of “Red, Red Wine” (a smash for British reggae group UB40).

Diamond dropped in a few select covers, to boot, dedicating a smooth “Spanish Harlem” to the man who first sang it, Ben E. King (who died April 30). Diamond also gave a nod to Joni Mitchell (who’s recently been ill), turning in a sensitive treatment of her trademark song, “Both Sides Now.”

Diamond seemed almost apologetic about performing three songs from his most recent album, “Melody Road.”

“You’ve probably never heard these songs before, so you won’t be able to sing along,” he said. “But I kind of like that — I like to be able to hear myself sing.”

It was a tacit acknowledgment that Diamond knew why the audience was there — to clap and sing along to the likes of “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Forever in Blue Jeans,” and his signature song, “Sweet Caroline.”

Still going strong at 74, Diamond worked hard to connect with the crowd.

After dedicating “Girl, You’ll Be a Woman Soon” to a section in the stands immediately to his left, audience members begged him to come over to their side of the stage, and he obliged.

As a prelude to “Brooklyn Road,” he sat down to talk about his childhood, and home-movie footage played behind as he sang. It was as if he were welcoming you into his own living room.

With a deft showman’s touch, Diamond performed the patriotically themed “America” as the image of a large flag was displayed on the rear screen, then turned the venue into a revival meeting with a rousing rendition of “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show.”

In a sweet touch guaranteed to charm the Mother’s Day audience, he dedicated the show to his own mother, adding, “She asked me to give you a big kiss.”

The response indicated there were more than a few who wanted to take him up on the offer.