WHY ARE not one, but two tribute acts paying elaborate homage to a concert Neil Diamond played 40 years ago? Well, it wasn't just any concert—it was the show that became the double live album Hot August Night. The August 24, 1972 recording was in the middle of a sold-out run of 10 shows that Diamond performed at the 5,700-capacity Greek Theatre in LA's Griffith Park. Album photographer Ed Caraeff says, "I remember, at the time, it was as close as I ever had to a steady job, since I was hired to attend every show and photograph."
Diamond's recording career was only six years old at that point, and had already been the subject of a live album (1970's Gold), but Hot August Night pinpoints a culmination for Diamond, both artistically and professionally. If it's not his best album, it's his Neil Diamondiest. "Neil told me it was the album that 'made his career,'" says Caraeff.
Tony Starlight performs a Neil Diamond tribute each month at his Portland supper club, but for Hot August Night's 40th, Starlight's taking over the substantially bigger Alberta Rose Theatre. "The 40th anniversary is significant because the original artist is still touring," says Starlight. "By the 50th anniversary, Neil will be 81 and it's unlikely he'll be touring or have much voice left."
National tribute act Super Diamond, meanwhile, performs at the Crystal Ballroom the following night. The press release touts that trees and Greek columns will adorn the room, evoking the Greek Theatre of the original show. It's a lot of hoopla for a seemingly arbitrary event, but Hot August Night marks the moment of Diamond's transformation from journeyman songwriter to adult contemporary superstar—Diamond would tip further into grandma-friendly glitz in the years to come, but the youthful joy of his splendid '60s singles and his subsequent infatuation with gospel ("Holly Holy," "Soolaimon") are still on full display.
"Hot August Night captures Neil at just the right time," says Starlight, "where he has a writing and performing history that makes him professional, but he is not yet an icon caught in the trappings of fame and fortune. There's a hunger and urgency to the performance that is rare to capture on tape."