Diamond is a girl's best friend

LIKE mother, like daughter, like granddaughter.Neil Diamond has proved something of a family affair for one Ipswich household of fans.Ann Burtenshaw, who is the longest serving fan with 37 years of support to her name, her daughter Samantha Pisaturo and granddaughter Charlotte Mysinger are now all gearing up to see the star when he performs at Portman Road next week .

LIKE mother, like daughter, like granddaughter.

Neil Diamond has proved something of a family affair for one Ipswich household of fans.

Ann Burtenshaw, who is the longest serving fan with 37 years of support to her name, her daughter Samantha Pisaturo and granddaughter Charlotte Mysinger are now all gearing up to see the star when he performs at Portman Road next week .

It will be one of three dates on his latest UK tour that the three of them, along with Ann's husband Alan, himself a Neil fan, will be going to. They also have tickets for his concerts at Woburn Abbey and Birmingham NEC.

Ann, 57, who runs Bedwell's Florists, in Northgate Street, Ipswich, with her mum Joyce Bedwell, Alan and Samantha, said: "I got hooked in 1968 when Cracklin' Rosie went to number two in the English charts. It was just something completely different and I went straight out and bought his album.

"I've bought virtually every one of his albums since. I don't buy all the compilations but I buy all the new stuff he does."

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"It's his gravelly voice," she added as to why she loves him so much.

Ann and Alan went to their first Neil Diamond concert at the London Palladium in 1977 and a few days later saw him again at Woburn Abbey, where both Neil and they will be returning on June 4.

They started taking Samantha to his concerts in 1989 and initiated Charlotte into the atmosphere of Neil's live performance in 1996.

Samantha, 37, said: "When I was little I used to say 'Not double Diamond again'. I wasn't a fan until the first time I saw him in concert.

"When you see him in concert though he is just fantastic. He's awesome. We go to lots of concerts but nothing touches on Neil Diamond."

In total Ann and Alan have seen Neil perform live 11 times – his Ipswich concert will be their 12th – but none stand out in memory as much as the last time they saw him, at London's Earls Court on July 26, 2002.

At that concert the four fans had seats in the second row and as Neil began to sing Girl You'll Be A Woman soon, he beckoned Charlotte onto the stage and serenaded her in front of the 12,000 strong audience.

Charlotte, 16, who was presented with a souvenir teddy bear, said: "I didn't want to go at first but it was amazing."

"For the rest of the concert whenever he came near our area he had a special, little wave for us and he blew her a kiss at the end," added Samantha, whose four-year-old daughter Louisa already knows all the lyrics to Sweet Caroline.

Ann continued: "That's the first tour he's done where he's drawn people from the audience and at most of the dates it was older people.

"He'd taken flowers from people in the past but we'd never seen him sing to anybody before."

The three are now thrilled that their favourite star is coming to their hometown.

Samantha said: "The most amazing thing for me is that he's going to be in Ipswich. Of all the places in England that have got stadiums he's coming to our hometown."

Ann added: "When I think of the money we've spent travelling round the country and now we can actually go to see him and walk home from this one.

"But we always try and go to at least two of his concerts when he's in England. I always have in my mind that he doesn't need to come and he might not come again so we need to see him."

n Do you know of anyone who may have footage or a photo of Charlotte's moment on stage with Neil Diamond at Earls Court in 2002? If you do, call the Evening Star newsdesk on 01473 324788.

n Neil Diamond is at Portman Road Stadium on May 26. Tickets cost from £35 (plus booking fee) and are available by calling 0870 405 0447 or 0870 145 1114 or online at www.seetickets.com or www.ticketmaster.co.uk

Customers with special needs are asked to call 01473 400555.

Weblink: www.neildiamond.com

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