HOT AUGUST NIGHT
Article by Dave Radstock
THE GREEK THEATRE - HOT AUGUST NIGHT 1972
"Hot August Night was the big turning point. That magnetism that people think of with Neil Diamond was born on that night.
He knocked them dead. Neil came through a cloud of smoke and the audience just exploded. It was the first time I saw him confident
on stage ..... That was chemistry." - Lee Holdridge, Composer & Conductor
"Electric ... his audience falls like plums at his feet." - Tone - Daily Variety
"More of a triumph, in every measurable way, than his stunning show last summer at the Greek .... Most of all, Diamond gave of himself." - Robert Hilburn -
Los Angeles Times
" ... he moved the audience through many moods from joy to sorrow." - Sue Cameron - The Hollywood Reporter
"The lean, sensual performer was A TRIUMPH." - Michael Carmack - Los Angeles Herald-Examiner
"I enjoyed the outstanding theatrical experience of my life, due to the unsurpassed and almost hypnotic talents of Neil Diamond." - James A Doolittle - General Director, Greek Theatre Association
Whilst we are celebrating Neil Diamond’s immensely successful “Live” career, it would be hugely remiss not to include this particular concert, which, when all said and done, was the catalyst for the Neil Diamond phenomenon.
Much has been said about this series of concerts that Neil Diamond performed at the Los Angeles Greek Theatre in 1972, that one could be forgiven in thinking we have heard it all before, after all, Neil Diamond had performed at this famous venue the previous summer, 1971, where he received much acclaim, so what was it that made these particular concerts so special, or at least the night of Thursday August 24th that was captured on record for posterity, and for all time. I think the answer lies with Neil Diamond himself.
The show became known as ‘A Hot August Night’. It was certainly a hot August night in more ways than one, those gathered were in for a treat, Neil Diamond’s growl of a voice, deep with sincerity, feeling, and emotion was about to be unleashed on them. The new Neil Diamond, one of the most dynamic, and power packed singers and performers of the era had arrived, there may never be a night quite like this again, as Diamond himself succinctly put it...
“This is going to be special, I promised that before I came back to this theatre, we would do things for you that you will not forget for a while, and that’s what we’re about tonight.”
All the songs were given a new treatment, ‘Solitary Man, ‘Sweet Caroline’,
‘Walk On Water’, ‘Soolaiman’, ‘I Am... I Said’, when Diamond introduced
‘I Am... I Said’ with the words...
“I need, I want, I care, I weep, I ache, I am... I said, I am...”
You could have heard a pin drop, the sense of intimacy was immense. The ‘Walk Off’ was out of this world, where Dennis St John was brilliant on drums.
Being the ever insecure person he is known as being, Diamond refused requests for television cameras to be present for fear of the concert being a flop, he needn’t have worried, as the audience appeared to be in a trance as they were entertained by the hypnotic talents of the “Solitary Man” on stage.
Another aspect which made this show so special was the special relationship he had with his band, it is evident that there exists an almost family like rapport between them, where they have a great love and respect for each other, and equally the band seem attuned to Neil’s mood, his wishes and moves, they are slick, and tight, and masters of their craft.
I mentioned earlier that the reason these shows were so celebrated could be found with Neil Diamond himself, and it is true, Neil Diamond wanted these shows to be like no other that had appeared at the venue, he wanted to eclipse his own acclaimed shows from the previous summer, and so set about working on how he could achieve the best possible sound, and to that end, he had a quadraphonic sound system installed at the theatre, something never heard of at the time. He also hired an orchestra to give a more sweeping arrangement to his songs, and give the air of not just a rock concert, but a musical event, the concerts as we now know are regarded as the finest live shows by any artist or band ever to appear at the Greek Theatre to this day.
“I need, I want, I care, I weep, I ache, I am... I said, I am...”
The audience didn’t know what to expect. As the ‘Prologue’ began, they were left wondering if they had come to the right venue, they had come to a rock concert, but instead were being treated to classical music by a 30-piece orchestra.
When the music rose to its crescendo, and Neil Diamond exploded on stage, he looked every bit a Greek God. As the spotlight bathed the solitary figure in its glow, Diamond sang his songs like never before, to the total amazement of the fans, the songs they knew so well, were being completely metamorphosed before them, where Neil gave them a whole new life and aura.
The attendees were the chosen ones, chosen to witness a butterfly emerge from commonality, history was being made before their very eyes.....
From that moment, he held the audience in the palm of his hand, he was slaying them, albeit in the nicest possible way, Diamond had connected with them, and they loved every minute of it.
Then there were the “Tree People” there were a great many people who didn’t have tickets, or couldn’t get in, so they sat in the surrounding mountain sides among the trees, equipped with bottles of wine, and had a pleasurable evening. Not only did they watch the concert for free, they were witnessing an immense musical talent explode into the stratosphere.
Neil Diamond had triumphed in a way even he wouldn’t have expected, or even imagined, those who attended remember the event as a master-class on how to present a musical performance. His parents, Rose and Kieve who attended the shows were immensely proud of their son, bursting with pride after witnessing his brilliant performance, and I would imagine that Neil Diamond’s reluctance to allow television cameras in could be viewed as not one of his best calls, but hindsight is a wonderful thing, and I’m sure Neil regrets not having the shows filmed.
Neil Diamond gave of himself that night, everything he could give, every emotion, from joy to sorrow, happiness to sadness, moving the audience on a tidal wave of emotions, an exhausting and exhilarating performance, which left Diamond and the audience breathless.
And so it was... the show was over, a stillness hung over the Greek Theatre, the critics and reviewers, not to mention his fans would hail Neil Diamond as the greatest star on the planet, his dynamic and hypnotic performance would create the whole Neil Diamond phenomenon which would last throughout his “Live” career.
Prologue Crunchy Granola Suite
Done Too soon
Solitary Man Cherry Cherry
You’re So Sweet
Red Red Wine
And the Grass Won’t Pay No Mind
I Think It’s Going To Rain Today Shilo
A Modern Day Version Of Love
Girl, You’ll Be A woman Soon Walk On Water Kentucky Woman Stones
Canta Libre Morningside
Song Sung Blue Cracklin’ Rosie
I Am... I Said Soolaimon / Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show
Neil Diamond (Vocals and Guitar), Richard Bennett (Guitar)
Danny Nicholson (Guitar), Emory Gordy Jr (Guitar and Vibrophone), Alan Lindgren (Keyboards), Reine Press (Bass), Dennis St John (Drums) Jefferson Kewley (Percussion)
Conductor: Lee Holdridge
Click on each image to enlarge
Footnote: The ‘Hot August Night’ live double album, the first of its kind to recapture and faithfully reproduce the amazing live performance on vinyl, was an immense sell out. At Diamond’s insistence, there was no adjusting of the quality of the sound equipment used at the concert, he wanted the album to be as faithful as possible, and to recreate all the excitement and atmosphere, with no pauses between songs, to give the listener the impression they were there too, he wanted everything, applause, and even the “Tree People”.
The album was a roaring success, where in Australia it remained #1 record for 29 weeks... An all time record.