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Published: 2008/08/25
by Brian Ferdman

Neil Diamond The Thank You Australia Concert Live 1976

Eagle Vision
In 1976, Neil Diamond was huge in Australia. Actually, the word huge doesnt even cut itenormously gigantic on an unfathomable scale is more like it. His popularity was so immense that his Hot August Night album was in one of every three Australian households. Thus, when he decided to make a comeback after a three-year sabbatical from live performing, he chose a seven city tour of Australia and New Zealand for his return to the stage. All of Australia fell into a massive media frenzy for Diamond, and his tour culminated in a sold-out show for 38,000 in Sydney that was broadcast live nationwide to 3 million people, a number that was the largest television audience in Australian history at the time. The live television feed of this March 9, 1976 performance, which sometimes looks rudimentary when compared to modern technology, is the basis for this newly released DVD.
After an incredibly overdramatic intro with a choir and cheesy synthesizers that evoke Manheim Steamroller, a hyper-serious, leather-panted Diamond strides on stage for an overdramatic rendering of Soolaimon. The drama, stiffness, and tension continue on Play Me and Solitary Man causing one to wonder why anyone would want to see this guy in concert. However, a switch is magically flipped during the jubilant Cherry Cherry, and Diamond starts strutting around the stage and shaking his hips like Elvis. Finally, he seems to be relishing the moment, directing his conga player to start jamming and just like that, a band that was sounding incredibly sparse and thin suddenly starts to sound full of life and energy. Sweet Caroline tears off the shackles and Planet Diamond goes into orbit, taking the crowd along with every growl in his voice. From this point forward, he becomes a phenomenal showman, dancing the mambo to The Last Picasso, conducting the crowd in a humorous sing-a-long to Song Sung Blue, and oozing passion out of guttural wails on Holly Holy. Diamond is relaxed and seems to truly love his audience, frequently joking back-and-forth with them and putting on a very entertaining show. Sure, there are some less-than-stellar moments, including the weird, religious overtones of a long set-closing medley revolving around Anthem and some hilariously dated computer animation on Skybird, but on the whole, this is one rollicking affair, punctuated by the spirited first encore of Brother Loves Salvation Show.
Unlike many concert DVDs, the extras on this release are almost as impressive as the main event. Included are journalist David Frosts repeatedly awkward attempts to introduce a live show that isnt quite ready to begin, and Diamonds mid-show product pitches (to fund the commercial-free broadcast) are executed tongue-in-cheek and are quite funny. Not to be overlooked is an incredibly lengthy interview with Australias A Current Affair. It was the first time the fiercely private Diamond had agreed to an in-depth television interview, and after suffering through the interviewers often annoying and obnoxious questions, the amazingly patient Diamond comes across as a rather gracious and often sympathetic figure.
No one really can explain why the French love Jerry Lewis, and no one has any idea why the Germans love David Hasselhoff, but this snapshot of an artist in his prime is the perfect justification for Australias love of Neil Diamond.

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