If you want to hear Neil Diamond songs with a rock kick while doing something to help abused children, the Super Diamond concert on Friday should be the perfect choice, like ordering an ice cream soda with a “Cherry Cherry” on top.
The tribute band delights in playing Diamond favorites with a bit of a twist. So they will throw in a Led Zeppelin riff into “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” or break into “I Am ... I Said” with a piece of Journey’s “Who’s Crying Now.”
Joe Swain, a Modesto financial planner who has helped organize the benefit concerts for the past eight years, said he and his wife have heard Super Diamond four times.
“They’re terrific,” he said. “They don’t play (Diamond’s) music note for note, and that’s part of their charm. They might sing ‘Song Sung Blue’ and go into Elvis’ ‘Blue Christmas.’ They pretty well sell out wherever they go.”
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He hopes that will happen at this concert. “One hundred percent of the proceeds go to the Royal Family Kids Camp,” he said.
That’s a mid-June camp for children who have been abused and now live in foster families. This year, Swain said, the goal is to sponsor 32 children. He said they’ve sent more than 200 children to camp over the past eight years.
The camp “has awesome miracles that happen there each year,” Swain said. “The Lord uses us at camp to change these kids’ lives. Without (God’s) intervention, there is a huge percentage of the kids who will repeat their birth parents’ mistakes and their own kids will end up in foster care.”
So what could be better, he asked, than to help fund the camp with “the coolest Neil Diamond tribute band on the planet”?
Diamond himself took in a Super Diamond show and liked what he heard. In a TV interview, Diamond said he “loves their music” and considers them “like my adopted children.”
Super Diamond is made up of six musicians: frontman “Surreal Neil” Randy Cordero, keyboardist Rama Kolesnikow, bassist Matt Tidmarsh, keyboardist James Terris, drummer Vince Littleton and guitarist Chris Collins. Don’t expect a Diamond look-alike in Cordero, but he has the superstar’s growly voice down pat.
Cordero was a mechanical engineer before the Diamond gig became successful and has said in interviews that the band was almost an “accident.” Formed in 1993, the guys wear sequined costumes and sing the tunes people “think they hate, but deep down they love,” Cordero said. He has described the band’s concerts as “Neil Diamond on steroids.”
Cordero grew up listening to his mom’s Diamond albums on eight-track tape (remember those?). For a lark, he threw in some of the singer’s songs when he sang his own original music at clubs and parties in the early 1990s. To his surprise, his Diamond-like voice and music took off.
He’ll bring the music, the “Sweet Caroline” singalong and the memories to the Gallo Center in Modesto on Friday. As of press time, there still were seats available in every price range.