Super Diamond may be just what Neil Diamond needs today.
The six-piece band that plays Saturday at Palace Station offers a “slightly campy” take on Diamond’s classic song book, with an alternative rock twist, according to singer Randy Cordero — a k a “The Surreal Neil.”
Yet the band stops short of parody. “We’ve never had a complaint, and a lot of people from the Neil Diamond fan club come to our shows,” Cordero reports. “We all went together to see him in Vegas (on New Year’s Day) and they were like, `Gosh, it seems a bit slow,’ because they’d all been hearing our versions for so long.”
While the real Neil offered a sedate band playing with headphones to a metronomic “click track,” Super Diamond likes to “play around with the sounds of today,” Cordero says. “Our sound is almost Kiss meets Depeche Mode, doing Neil Diamond.”
Instead of the organ solo you’re used to hearing on “Cherry Cherry,” Super Diamond plays it with “a really weird synth sound.” Likewise, “Soolaimon” (from “Tap Root Manuscript,” Diamond’s African-themed concept album) starts out “really spacey and weird.” And “Holly Holy” sneaks in a little of Black Sabbath’s “Iron Man” at the end.
“They’re great songs,” he says, but “it’s just really fun to add more power to it.” The most common response from people who see them for the first time is, “You guys (expletive) rock!”
Cordero, 33, started doing Neil in 1989 as a solo performer. “I’d do things like, `Here’s how Neil Diamond would sound doing The Cure.’ I’ve always thought Peter Murphy from Bauhaus and Ian McCulloch from Echo and The Bunnymen sound very similar to his voice, so I’d do Neil singing their songs.”
Cordero put the band together six years ago, but had a hard time advertising for musicians. “I was afraid I would get the wrong kind of people, hotel bands and stuff,” he says. Eventually, “it just worked out. I finally ended up meeting young people from bands that were doing more original stuff in the Bay area.”
Surreal Neil has cultivated his own fan following. “I never wanted to wear a wig. I never wanted to try and look like (Diamond), but sequins sounded like a lot of fun. I tried to find the biggest platform shoes I could find, the tackiest black bell bottoms I could find. I wanted to take what I remembered of Neil and do it kind of bigger and wackier.”
To Cordero’s knowledge, the real Neil has yet to check out the act. “He wants to, but I guess security issues …” But, Cordero adds, “Everyone else has seen us. His children, his girlfriend, his merchandise guy and people from his band have shown up when we play the House of Blues in L.A.”
Super Diamond plays at 7 and 9 p.m. Saturday in the new Trax Nightclub at Palace Station, 2411 W. Sahara Ave. There is no cover, but a two-drink minimum.