Double Diamond set to shine
By Ingrid Paulsen
News Group staff
It took just over three decades for Bill Zaalberg to realize what it really meant to shine as a performer. The singer and multi-instrumentalist began his musical career in 1975 in a trio, but it was only recently he took his years of combined experience to mastermind an 11-piece show of local talent under the name Double Diamond.
“I spent 16 years at the Esquimalt Legion. We started doing impersonation shows and ended up having a run of 34 shows, every Wednesday. All four of us would come with different characters every week,” says Zaalberg.
He had toured as a musician around the province both as a trio and then as a solo performer before he settled at the legion. It was within his introduction to the whirlwind of characters he performed that the link to Neil Diamond became apparent. He’s dressed up in a wide range of characters, from Tina Turner to Bill Clinton, but it was Diamond who got the most realistic response.
“People used to tell me I should take the Neil character further. So when I left the legion two years ago, I started putting together this show.”
He certainly knew this Island was a wellspring of talent, enabling him to bring together a fully local show. He didn’t need to look far for his first backup singer. His daughter-in-law Kathleen Zaalberg had been singing lead in the band Roxxlyde for over a decade and even her speaking voice reminded many of a certain female singing star. When Kathleen hits the stage in black flowing lace, with her long blond hair streaming down, few will be able to distinguish the Island girl from Fleetwood Mac’s Stevie Nicks as she launches into “Landslide,” among others.
“I noticed there were so many impersonators coming through Victoria, but none coming from Victoria. And we have so much talent here. I also noticed there are not many people impersonating Neil Diamond. There are tons of people doing Elvis, but not many who can do Neil well,” says Bill. He studied video tapes to nail Diamond’s characteristics and his Brooklyn accent.
“Neil was my idol at 18 years old,” Bill says. And over the years playing cover tunes, Neil was a favourite in his repertoire. “I didn’t have to learn the songs, I knew them already. It was just a matter of brushing them up.
Not to mention adding arrangements for his 10-piece backup.
“I have full brass and two female backup singers. The brass adds dramatics to the show. We have a really big sound.”
The Double Diamond show has already sparkled in both Cowichan and Nanaimo. And the group is excited glitz-garnished regions from down south have already taken notice.
“We’ve had some interest from Las Vegas,” says Bill. And when asked if leaving the ocean where the entire band was raised is an option, he’s ready with an answer. “Oh yeah, it’s a gift from heaven if you can play down there.”
Double Diamond is set to play the McPherson Playhouse Feb. 13. For Valentine’s Day the group has arranged to play “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” in their set. Tickets and information are available through the McPherson box office, 386-6121.