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April 26, 2017

Diamond in the rough

By Dom Cioffi

I was in Nashville, Tenn., this past week for a marketing conference. This was my first trip to the country metropolis known as “Music City.” And while I spent most of my day attending lectures and workshops with my 20-something coworker, I did find time to break away during the nights to take in the local flavor.

On our first night, my coworker and I wandered into the heart of the city onto Lower Broadway, where legions of country stars have strummed their guitars and belted out tunes hoping for a big break. The area is electric—and I mean that literally—as dozens of live music acts plug in to entertain the scores of tourists looking to cut loose.

I have never seen more live music being performed in such a condensed area. Lower Broadway is lined with bar after bar, each offering its own unique slice of harmonic Americana.

We wandered in and out of several establishments on our journey, listening to the bands and people watching. (I didn’t realize it, but Nashville is a top destination for bachelorette parties. This was clear given the number of young women we saw with faux veils and taboo drink receptacles.)

Eventually we ended up outside the the Bridgestone Arena, the home of the NHL’s Nashville Predators. I knew the Stanley Cup Playoffs were in full swing, but I was certain there were no games that night. And yet, crowds of people were surging into the stadium.

Out of curiosity, we wandered over and inquired what all the commotion was about. The woman at the box office window replied with giddy delight, “Why, Neil Diamond is in town!”

As a longtime guitarist (without the longtime skills), I was immediately beside myself at the good fortune. Neil Diamond has written some of pop music’s catchiest tunes – songs that have genuinely lined the soundtrack of my life.

I turned to my younger coworker and explained that this was the opportunity of a lifetime and that we had to buy tickets no matter where they were situated. She looked at me with utter confusion and asked, “Who’s Neil Diamond?”

After gathering my composure, I went into a quick description of Diamond’s five-decade career, rattling off numerous classic songs and the influence he’s had on society. While initially confused by my excitement, eventually she shrugged her shoulders and agreed to go.

Within 10 minutes we had purchased tickets and found our way to our seats, high in the upper reaches of the arena. No sooner did we sit down when Neil burst onto the stage and began singing.

For the next two hours, this 76-year-old crooner pounded out hit after hit. As each new song echoed through the stadium, I turned to my coworker and queried, “You must know this one?” To each song she sheepishly replied, “Nope.”

However, as the concert progressed, I noticed her hands clapping and her feet tapping. Even though she was unaware of the star’s voluminous repertoire, she was clearly experiencing the allure of his creative songwriting and captivating storytelling.

Eventually, “Sweet Caroline” arrived as the encore and the crowd erupted. All I did was turn my head and look at her and she started yelling, “I know this one!”

Later, as we exited the arena, she began singing lyrics to one of the songs that had the biggest impact on her. I filled her in on the correct lyrical phrasing, which led her to sing this song for the rest of the conference.

Later she told me that she planned to use the ditty as her wedding song. And at work the following Monday, she admitted to downloading “Neil Diamond’s Greatest Hits” from Spotify, spending the entire weekend falling in love with his catalogue.

I must admit, while I was feeling “old” since I knew every song that night, I did feel good knowing I turned a member of the younger generation onto the genius of Neil Diamond.

This week’s feature, “The Boss Baby” highlights another genius – except this one is in the body of an infant toddler who will stop at nothing when it comes to torturing his older brother.

Released from DreamWorks Animation, “The Boss Baby” is yet another studio’s attempt at capturing the magic of Pixar—and in this case, providing a direct rip-off of Stewie from “Family Guy.” Unfortunately, while the visuals were captivating, the storytelling and overall feel failed to impress.

Check this one out if you’ve got a youngster to entertain for a couple hours. Otherwise, steer clear as “The Boss Baby” is not as adult-friendly as you might hope.

A whiny “C” for “The Boss Baby.”

Got a question or comment for Dom? You can email him at moviediary@att.net.

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