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The Music Man: Two Concerts, One Weekend

Eli Maierson
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Neil Diamond

Neil Diamond sang his hit songs, spanning multiple decades and generations. Diamond is currently on his 50th anniversary tour, celebrating his illustrious career. (Photo: Ryan Maierson) 

Music has been a part of my dad’s life for decades. He was a drummer for his high school band The Avant Gardeners and he worked in a record shop for two summers. For years, he has bragged to me that he “knows every song ever made.” This past weekend, his love of music was in full force when he attended Kendrick Lamar and Neil Diamond concerts on back-to-back nights at The Toyota Center. Here, I ask him about the different experiences:

Eli Maierson: How would you describe the difference in atmospheres?

Ryan Maierson: The atmospheres were similar. Each crowd buzzed with anticipation before the concert began and then erupted in applause when the star took the stage. Neither crowd got tired; they both implored the star to keep going and play more songs.

EM: How was the crowd at each concert? Was one more energetic than the other?

Kendrick Lamar

Kendrick Lamar performed hits from his recent album "DAMN." Lamar was alone on stage for the entire concert, only accompanied by a live band and light shows. (Photo: Prithvi Krishnarao) 

RM: Kendrick had a mostly young, very enthusiastic crowd. Consistent with his upbeat music, the audience was excited and energetic. Neil Diamond’s crowd also was very appreciative of his performance but was less vocal. At Kendrick’s concert, the crowd was on its feet the entire time, rapping along and dancing. At Neil’s concert, the crowd stayed seated other than for his biggest songs.

EM: What was each performance like?

RM: There were some contrasts and some similarities. Kendrick is a 30-year-old star just now realizing his power as an artist and a performer. Neil was celebrating his 50th anniversary of touring. He is a seasoned veteran who has performed thousands of shows over the decade and who knows exactly which lines, which songs and which stage moves will resonate with the audience. The similarity is that both performers seemed genuinely appreciative of their audience’s adoration. Even after 50 years of touring, Neil was not jaded or just going through the motions. He spoke to the audience with sincerity and thankfulness, just as Kendrick had done the night before.

EM: How did you get interested in both artists?

Ryan Maierson

Ryan Maierson was the drummer in his high school band, The Avant Gardeners. He later played drums for another band while in law school. 

RM: I grew up listening to Neil Diamond’s hits from the 1960s with my parents, and his songs from the movie The Jazz Singer were a big part of the soundtrack of my childhood. My wife and I saw him perform in 1996 and wanted to relive the experience 21 years later. I also have been a hip hop fan for 30 years, and I believe Kendrick is probably the most talented lyrical and musical hip hop artist to appear on the scene in the last five years. So it just happened to be the perfect weekend of music for me.

EM: Who had the better concert?

RM: Neil’s concert was full of nostalgia and brought back a long line of memories for me, but Kendrick’s performance - a big stage occupied by just one man at the height of his talent - was astonishingly great.

Editor’s Note: Looking for concerts in Houston this month? See Haley Kurisky’s roundup of live music in July here. Check back for her roundup of August concerts soon. 

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