Super Diamond article from Portland…

Fans get a full Neil deal
Polished tribute act draws new generation of Diamondheads
By ERIC BARTELS Issue date: Fri, Mar 12, 2004
The Tribune
Lead singer Surreal Neil of the Neil Diamond tribute band Super Diamond vividly remembers his first meeting with the real Neil.
“The first thing he said was, ‘Thank you for doing what you’re doing,’ ” says 38-year-old Randy Cordero. “I said, ‘Thank you for not suing us.’ ”
Cordero says Diamond’s retinue is grateful for the nearly 11 years that Super Diamond has spent steering new generations of concertgoers toward the superstar’s immense catalog of music.
“They’re amazed and delighted with all the young people coming to our shows,” says Cordero, a Northern California native.
When Cordero was setting up for a Los Angeles House of Blues show in which he actually sang with Diamond onstage, one of Diamond’s people said: “You got all the young hot chicks. We’ve got all the blue-hairs.”
Surreal Neil admits as much. “The whole front row will be beautiful young ladies in their 20s, and they’re freaking out,” he says. “Sometimes I wonder if they just like guys in sequins. They don’t even know the words.”
Whatever the explanation, the results are clear. Super Diamond visits Chicago’s House of Blues twice a year and routinely sells out the 1,500-seat venue, Cordero says. The band played in front of 10,000 fans at a New Year’s Eve event in San Francisco. And it played three songs at a Women’s World Cup soccer game in California with 70,000 in attendance.
“Maybe it’s not for those old original Neil Diamond fans,” Cordero says. “It’s more of a show for the kids whose parents or grandparents listened to him.
“I thought there would be a cutoff point where we wouldn’t see any more young people. They still keep coming.”
The soft-spoken Cordero knew early on that he had the gift. He’d sing along with the radio and nail Jim Morrison or David Bowie. “I could do a decent Elvis,” he says. Later it was Oingo Boingo’s Danny Elfman or the guy from popular ’80s band the Fixx.
“I always had this ability to do voices,” he says.
Cordero was living in Tempe, Ariz., in the late ’80s, where he’d studied electromechanical engineering in college. He played in an alt-rock band called Down Boy, but also would play solo acoustic gigs and throw in an occasional Neil Diamond tune, mostly as a lark.
“It was completely against everything I was doing in my band at the time,” he says. “No one was doing retro at the time. I thought it might upset people, but I did it anyway. It was fun.”
Then he had an epiphany: “When I started playing Neil Diamond songs, it kind of taught me an appreciation for simplicity. It taught me how to appreciate a well-written song. We didn’t have any love songs in Down Boy.”
By 1993, Cordero had parted ways with his old band and Super Diamond was a going concern. “It just slowly kind of happened,” he says.
Now he’s in San Francisco, and Super Diamond’s year-round weekend dates allow Cordero to spend his time writing and recording original music in his home studio. “I was able to quit my day job,” he says.
“We didn’t put Super Diamond together to make money,” he says. “We did it for fun, and it just turned into a good living. We’re making more money probably than a lot of bands with songs on the radio. What could be better?”
As a youngster, Cordero was a big Diamond fan, although he admits his admiration dwindled sometime around the release of “The Jazz Singer,” the 1980 album that cemented Diamond’s transformation from credible rocker into mass-market entertainer.
“There are albums that I can’t even listen to,” he says.
Cordero says Super Diamond takes occasional license with the master’s oeuvre, letting “Sweet Caroline” morph into Guns n’ Roses’ “Sweet Child o’ Mine,” or tossing in the odd Black Sabbath riff.
“We like to mess things up a lot. Not do everything straightforward,” he says. “We like to give the songs our own flavor.”
Surreal Neil knows the act can’t go on forever. “I don’t know if I can do it for another 10 years,” he says. “It’s really tough. One of the things I hate is putting on the sequins. It’s kinda scratchy on the neck.”

Super Diamond
When: 9 p.m. Saturday, March 13
Where: Crystal Ballroom, 1332 W. Burnside St.,
Cost: $16, $18 day of show

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