58°F
weather icon Mostly Cloudy

Neil Diamond thrills Las Vegas Strip crowd in surprise show

Updated March 9, 2020 - 10:02 am

Health scares and political divisions took the night off Saturday at MGM Grand Garden. We can thank Neil Diamond for that.

The rock and pop legend was in top form in a stunning, unbilled (but not entirely unexpected) seven-song set of “Cracklin’ Rosie,” “Hello Again,” “Forever in Blue Jeans,” Love on the Rocks,” “I Am … I Said,” “September Morn” and — in what has become the mandatory Diamond selection — “Sweet Caroline.”

The medley thrilled a crowd of of 1,500 VIP attendees at the 24th annual Keep Memory Alive Power of Love gala, the benefit event for the Lou Ruvo Center for Brain Health, Cleveland Clinic. The crowd of dignitaries was up, dancing, shouting and in many cases crying at Diamond’s performance.

One attendee who had worked to the edge of the stage shouted, “This is the greatest night of my life!” Another called out, “He is crushing it!”

For “Sweet Caroline,” Diamond was joined by the night’s lineup of performers and presenters, including Sammy Hagar, Chris Isaak, Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds, Billy Ray Cyrus and Katlyn Nichol. Diamond threw his fist skyward as the crowd shouted the refrain, “So good! So good! So good!”

Diamond was joined as the night’s honoree by Sheldon and Dr. Miriam Adelson, recipients of the Keep Memory Alive Community Leadership award in honor of the couple’s philanthropic endeavors and contributions to medical research, education and many Jewish causes and organizations. The couple were honored from the stage and during a video tribute, with Miriam Adelson accepting the award.

The entertainment segment is an annual highlight at Power of Love, and Diamond’s set might have topped that all-time list, given his time away from the stage and history in Las Vegas. It was the 79-year-old’s superstar’s first public performance since Aug. 12, 2017, at The Forum in Inglewood, California. He hadn’t headlined in Las Vegas since May 17, 2015, at Mandalay Bay Events Center.

In January 2018, Diamond announced he was retiring from live performances after being diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Saturday’s performance might well have been his final live appearance.

Diamond showed little rust, moving easily, playing to the entire room while dressed in all black with a leather jacket.

All of the assembled stars covered songs Diamond either performed or has written: Cyrus with “I’m a Believer,” the song he gave to the Monkees that was a monster hit in 1967; Isaak with “Solitary Man”; Edmonds and Nichols with “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers”; and Hagar with a blazing “Thank the Lord for the Night Time.” Kelsey Grammer introduced Hagar, and dance great Derek Hough brought on Edmonds and Nichols.

Prior to his time onstage, Diamond remembered his debut in Las Vegas at the Aladdin Theatre for the Performing Arts, now Zappos Theater. He was the venue’s first headliner on July 2, 1976, helping celebrate America’s bicentennial weekend.

“Well, they threw open the doors and welcomed me in,” Diamond said. “It was an unusual setup for the performance. The building is still there. There were 5 or 6,000 people, as opposed to the more intimate club kind of thing. I had a great time.”

Diamond said he’s recording an album this year, including a collaboration with Stevie Wonder on a song Diamond says he wrote “a while ago.”

“It’s just great to be with him,” Diamond said, adding that the album is almost finished and due this year. “It’s me for the most part. I’ll have to fill up the space as much as I can, and try to do something beautiful.”

The evening was set up for the night’s entertainment honoree to deliver more greatness, as Jimmy Kimmel and event co-founder Larry Ruvo introduced the superstar. Kimmel, attending his first Power of Love event, said from the stage, “I love Las Vegas, and I love Neil Diamond. Not only do I love Neil, but my parents love him, my friends love him, my children love him. Neil Diamond is an amazing songwriter and singer, and I think you will agree that no Jewish man looks better in sequins than Neil Diamond.”

Ruvo presented Diamond with a proclamation from Las Vegas Mayor Carolyn Goodman making March 7, 2020, Neil Diamond Day in Las Vegas. Kimmel said, “Hey, Neil. It’s Neil Diamond Day.” Diamond joked back at the late-night talk-show host, “Who gives a (expletive)?”

Ruvo then said, “I know everybody, including Neil Diamond, wants to hear Neil Diamond sing.” Ruvo had also teased to Diamond’s performance on Friday night when he said, “Neil Diamond will not sing one song tomorrow night.”

Diamond broke out “Cracklin’ Rosie” to open his medley, and ramped up the energy as the 30-minute set progressed. He was clearly invigorated by the performance, shouting some of the lyrics in “I Am … I Said.”

The music seemed therapeutic, in real time, during Diamond’s performance.

Greg Phillinganes, the superstar keyboardist and music director brought on to back Diamond, put it best after the show. Phillinganes is a deeply respected and experienced artist who has worked withWonder, Michael Jackson, Eric Clapton and Bruno Mars, among many other superstars.

Asked about Diamond’s performance, Phillinganes just shook his head and said, “I’m speechless.”

The Review-Journal is owned by the family of Sheldon Adelson and Dr. Miriam Adelson.\

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. His PodKats podcast can be found at reviewjournal.com/podcasts. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.
Entertainment Videos
Caesars furloughing about 90% of US workers
The furloughs come amid the COVID-19 pandemic, which has prompted all U.S. commercial casinos to temporarily shut their doors.
Bill Withers, soul legend and 'Lean on Me' singer, dead at 81 - VIDEO
Bill Withers' family said he died of heart complications on Monday in Los Angeles. Withers was a three-time Grammy winner. His other major hits include “Ain’t No Sunshine" and “Lovely Day.” (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Vegas KatsWalk: From the Mandalay Bay to Excalibur - VIDEO
Review-Journal columnist John Katsilometes walks and talks along the Las Vegas Strip, from Mandalay Bay to Excalibur. (John Katsilometes and Kevin Cannon / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Make Ivan Grant's Quarantini - VIDEO
Ivan Grant, a flair bartender at Long Bar at The D Las Vegas, makes his Quarantini. (Ivan Grant)
Fountains of Wayne's Adam Schlesinger dies from coronavirus - VIDEO
According to Variety, 52-year-old frontman and songwriter Adam Schlesinger has died, following a short battle with the respiratory illness, coronavirus. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
KATS WALK: A walking tour on south Las Vegas Strip – VIDEO
RJ columnist John Katsiometes takes a walking tour of the south end of the Las Vegas Strip. (John Katsiometes and Kevin Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Tiger King character has Las Vegas connection - VIDEO
Entertainment reporter John Katsilometes talks about the popular "Tiger King" and Jeff Lowe, a central figure in the Netflix documentary phenomenon who wanted to do business with the last Las Vegas Strip entertainer to use wild tigers in his act. (Renee Summerour/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Coranavirus victim Howard Berman playing the harmonica in April 2014 - VIDEO
Howard Berman, 66, playing the harmonica at a jam session in April 2014. Berman, who was active in the Las Vegas music community, died on March 24, 2020, from COVID-19. (Diana Andriola)
Boarded-up businesses in the Arts District add some color - VIDEO
Businesses in the Arts District have commissioned local artists to paint murals on the boards covering their doors and windows. When the boards are removed, they will be auctioned off to raise money for those affected by the coronavirus shutdowns. (K.M. Cannon/Las Vegas Review-Journal) @KMCannonPhoto
Sold-out Electric Daisy Carnival still scheduled for May - VIDEO
In a post on his social media platforms, festival founder Pasquale Rotella confirmed that EDC remains scheduled for May 15-17 at Las Vegas Motor Speedway despite coronavirus concerns that have sideline scads of other live music events. (Michael Quine/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
City of Las Vegas responds to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup
Alcohol is now allowed in curbside meal pickups in Las Vegas. The city of Las Vegas has responded to calls to allow restaurants offering curbside pickup service to include alcohol in those meals. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Lady Gaga delays new album release - VIDEO
The pop star was planning to drop her sixth LP, "Chromatica," on April 10, but she's made the "tough decision" to push back the launch following the coronavirus outbreak. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Ways to keep yourself from going crazy at home during coronavirus - VIDEO
Take art classes with your kids. Install a bidet. Practice yoga. Buy houseplants. Catch up your streaming queue. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Las Vegas nightclub giant Hakkasan Group lays off 1,600 - VIDEO
The Las Vegas Strip’s leading nightlife company has let go of nearly its entire workforce, leaving about 1,600 staffers suddenly unemployed, due to the shutdowns during the coronavirus crisis. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Disneyland closes in response to coronavirus - VIDEO
Walt Disney Company announced the closure of its Disneyland Resort in Anaheim, California, on Thursday afternoon. Known as the "happiest place on earth," Disneyland has closed its doors only three other times in 65 years. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
MGM Resorts to temporarily close buffets amid coronavirus fears - VIDEO
MGM Resorts International will temporarily close its Las Vegas buffets, effective Sunday amid growing coronavirus fears. (Al Mancini and James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Morimoto tackles Italian cooking at Eataly Las Vegas
Masaharu Morimoto showed off his skills in a slightly different context Thursday night, when he dropped by Manzo in Eataly to launch the Italian restaurant’s new Guest Chef series. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Terry Fator leaving Mirage on Las Vegas Strip - VIDEO
The 11-year Las Vegas Strip headliner is on a venue hunt, confirming Wednesday he is leaving his eponymous theater at The Mirage this summer for parts uncharted. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Garth Brooks to play first concert at Allegiant Stadium - VIDEO
Country megastar Garth Brooks is the first non-football event announced for the $2 billion, 65,000-seat Allegiant Stadium. (James Schaeffer / Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Post Malone reveals his face tattoos are due to being 'ugly' - VIDEO
In a new interview with 'GQ,' the 24-year-old admitted his body art is linked to insecurity issues. [The face tattoos do] maybe come from a place of insecurity, to where I don’t like how I look .., Post Malone, via 'GQ'. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
5 Las Vegas chefs to watch - VIDEO
If you want to know what’s next for dining in Las Vegas, we suggest paying close attention to these five accomplished chefs. (Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Slanted Door in The Forum Shops at Caesars - VIDEO
The Slanted Door, Charles Phan's James Beard Award-winning modern Vietnamese restaurant, will open a Las Vegas location on March 2. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas REview-Journal)
Buddy V opens PizzaCake at Harrah’s - VIDEO
Buddy Valastro, aka Cake Boss Buddy V, is in town this week overseeing the soft opening of his new restaurant, PizzaCake, in Harrah’s Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making mist-shrouded tuna poke at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas - VIDEO
E.J. Estrella, banquet chef at Marssa at the Westin Lake Las Vegas, makes tuna poke by mixing chunks of bigeye tuna with sliced green onions, julienned white onions and house-made poke sauce and serving it on a bed of seaweed salad garnished with lotus chips and suspended over melon-scented mist. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making baked goat cheese at Ri Ra in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Shea Wafford, sous chef and pastry chef at Ri Ra at The Shoppes at Mandalay Place in Las Vegas, makes baked goat cheese served with honey-nut pesto, pickled red onions, peppadew relish and sourdough baguette. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Bruce Kalman cooking at Ada’s - VIDEO
Celebrity chef Bruce Kalman will be cooking at Ada's in Tivoli Village in Las Vegas. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making banana cream pie at Cut in Las Vegas - VIDEO
Nicole Earl, pastry chef at Cut at the Palazzo in Las Vegas, makes an updated banana cream pie by layering banana ice cream, custard and compote with house-made Cool Whip, vanilla wafers and 24-karat gold leaf in a milk chocolate sphere and drizzling it with warm banana-caramel sauce so it devolves into petals. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Making Chile Colorado at Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas
Javier Chavez, chef/owner of Kitchen Table and Kitchen Table Squared in Las Vegas, makes Chile Colorado by braising pork belly with three kinds of peppers and serving it atop stewed black beans with crema and pickled jalapeño, carrots and onions, with flour tortillas. (Heidi Knapp Rinella/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Black Tap introduces its vegan CrazyShake - VIDEO
Black Tap at The Venetian on the Las Vegas Strip has a new CrazyShake that's vegan -- The Black ’N White CakeShake. (Rachel Aston/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
Guy Fieri reflects on the Las Vegas dining scene
Celebrity chef Guy Fieri talks about the Las Vegas food scene while in town celebrating his 52nd birthday. (Al Mancini/Las Vegas Review-Journal)
THE LATEST