For the love of Neil Diamond

Last night I went to a Neil Diamond concert with my mother. I wasn’t super jazzed when she invited me, but my dad pooped out and she needed a seatmate. So I went halfheartedly, thinking hey – at least it’s a night out of the house.

As I fought the crowds on the way in, I remembered – oh right, I hate crowds. So I grimaced with annoyance as I got elbowed on all sides, listening to old people freak out about which line was moving faster. SWEET GEEZUS WHICH LINE?!?

My irritation grew as the smell of bad perfume seared my nostrils, and the sight of one too many sequined tops blinded me. I could be home on my couch watching The Bachelorette right now, damnit.

The mood brightened a wee bit when I found my mother waiting with an extra glass of chardonnay for me. That’ll numb the pain.

As we waited for the show to begin, I watched in fascination as the oddest array of people took their seats around us. A ton of gray hairs, lots of animated and chatty women in their 40s and 50s, the occasional younger person here and there. It ran the gamut, and reminded me a bit of the crowd at Costco last week.

The woman on the other side of my mom leaned over and squealed, “I hope you don’t mind if I sing and dance the whole time!” My mom happily replied, “I won’t mind if you don’t!”

More chardonnay, please.

This was actually my fourth Neil concert, and the third time I’ve seen him with my mom. Despite my hesitation to go last night, I have a deep affection for the man. He was the soundtrack of my youth. I remember my mom singing and dancing to his music in our living room growing up. The Jazz Singer album was one of her favorites, so I have a strong emotional attachment to that one too.

For that reason, I feel the need to preserve the integrity of those memories. I get annoyed when drunk college students sing “Sweet Caroline” at karaoke. I tell myself they are posers and that’s probably the only Neil song they know.

I was also reluctant to go last night because last time I saw Neil in concert, almost 10 years ago, I remember he sat down on the stage at one point and I honestly thought he might not be able to get up. He was no spring chicken. Of course he did get up, and the show was great.

But this time, at age 71, I feared it would be even more likely to feel like Neil should have retired his sequins by now, before he breaks a hip on stage, shattering his pelvis and my childhood memories.

As the lights dimmed in the arena, I took another swig of my chardonnay and prepared for the geriatric display.

But the moment the band started to play, I got goose bumps. When Neil waltzed out, I shit you not – I got teary. Turns out that man still has swagger to spare. Sure, he moves a tad bit slower, and his ears are larger than life these days, but he’s still got it. For the next two hours he lit up that arena, crooning his finest tunes, swaying those tender hips, and making the ladies swoon.

I clapped and sang the whole time, and couldn’t believe the big goofy smile on my face. I also teared up more than once (how can you not during “Hello Again,” right??). It may have been the chardonnay. In fact, it most definitely was at one point. But as I looked around at that random audience, singing and dancing unabashedly, I thought to myself, these are my people.

Well done, Neil – you never disappoint. Thanks, yet again, for the memories.

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