There never was a time when Neil Diamond, the Jewish Elvis, was completely free from ridicule. Lester Bangs's hilarious Rolling Stone review of 1972's Hot August Night -- sending up Diamond as the unself-conscious Hollywood-damaged cornball he was and still is -- proves Diamond was camp even then. But now the glamour's gone, along with much of the camp. When Diamond wears a sparkly shirt these days, it's tucked into a pair of roomy Gap jeans. And compare the cover of Hot August Night with that of his latest, Three Chord Opera -- Diamond has changed from a lion-maned stud, posing in mock-masturbation, to an armchair troubadour with a receding hairline. If he had become Fat Jewish Elvis, he'd never hear the end of it; as it is, Diamond can be thankful his music finally takes center stage. Was it ever orgasmic? Not exactly. At his most potent, he delivered the folksy cinematics of "Cracklin' Rosie," "Brooklyn Roads," and "Shiloh." The new "Midnight Dream" proves he can still do it, even now that the windswept coming-of-age sagas have aged into windswept tales of midlife crisis. It's just this populist nostalgia the Springsteenologists conveniently gloss over in favor of the Boss's seemingly more dignified Dylan roots. Overheard at a stop on Springsteen's last tour: "Amazing, 50 years old, and he can still make the girls come in their pants!" Sunday and Monday at Gund Arena, no matter how obnoxious the concertgoers are in your general vicinity, you probably won't hear anything like that. But he just might make the middle-aged women cry.
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