In the late 1970s, after watching Neil Diamond play a Las Vegas showroom, Bob Dylan launched what one critic called a “Neil Diamond masquerade.” He hired Diamond’s manager, Jerry Weintraub, dressed in sequins and jumpsuits and hired a big touring band to play kitschy arrangements of his iconic tunes.
So maybe Diamond went to see Dylan perform recently. For two fun and often fascinating hours at Verizon Center on Thursday, Diamond delivered what for him was an utterly understated performance, in which several chestnuts were reworked in a downright Dylanesque manner.
To “Red Red Wine,” he had his band add the same ska tinges that U.K. pop act UB40 inserted on its 1980s cover of Diamond’s vintage single. “Solitary Man” and “I Am . . . I Said” were both presented as dirges, but remained wondrous. Diamond even took “I’m a Believer,” the biggest pop song of 1966 as recorded by the Monkees, and rendered it as a ballad. He said he’d wanted to record a slow version before the Monkees hit the charts with their up-tempo classic.