For a guy that sports some of the shiniest sequined get-ups around each weekend, Randy Cordero is a pretty quiet guy.
During a phone interview from his home in San Francisco, the man who fronts Super Diamond (the Neil Diamond Experience), speaks in a smooth tone while expressing his gratitude for his lot in life at the moment.
“We’ve been doing it for 10 years come next March, and even seven years ago we seemed to be in high demand,” he said. “I keep thinking, ‘Wow, this is great, it can’t get any better!’ Then it gets better and I say, ‘Wow, this is great, it can’t get any better!’ It’s all just very cool.”
Cordero, billed as “Surreal Neil,” admits that when the band got started a decade ago as a goof, he never imagined that today he’d still be belting out tunes like “America” and “Girl You’ll Be a Woman Soon” for packed concert halls all over the country.
“We started doing one show a month in San Francisco, then branching out a little further,” he said. “It’s really neat when you just do something to please yourself and it happens to go over really good and turns into something you never expected.”
What Cordero also never expected was being able to quit his day job as an engineer in 1998 and turn his love for the real Neil and his band into a full-time gig. The band now plays from two to four gigs a week, traveling all over the country, including regular stops to Solana Beach’s Belly Up Tavern.
This Sunday, however, Super Diamond is the headliner for Fiesta del Sol, the two-day music festival and street fair going on at Fletcher Cove.
It should be explained that Super Diamond isn’t just any tribute band. With Cordero’s amazing vocal similarities and Neil-like stage presence, along with the backing of a hard-rocking, versatile and talented band, an evening with Super Diamond is more experience than concert for the audience, who generally come dressed in full 1970s disco regalia.
“I hate for us to be lumped in with tribute bands, because a lot of them are doing it just to make money,” he said. “It didn’t start that way for us. It just happened that we were doing something we loved and people responded to it.”
San Diego fans respond with consistent sellouts every time the band visits the Belly Up, on average twice a month.
“When we do a show, we try to give it all we can,” said Cordero. “We know people come to the shows over and over, but we like to think that every time we come back, we are a little better than we were before. I don’t want people to say, ‘They aren’t as good as they used to be.'”
What does the real Neil Diamond think about Cordero and company? He’s such a big fan, he joined Super Diamond onstage at the House of Blues Hollywood two years ago and sang with them again last year at a Hollywood film premiere.
There is no typical crowd for a Super Diamond show, and the age of fans ranges anywhere from 21 to 65. The evening becomes a sort of “love-in” for fans of one of the top songwriters in America. While the tunes themselves appeal to hard-core Diamond fans, the added Black Sabbath guitar riffs and crossovers into Led Zeppelin appeal to younger fans.
“It’s kinda fun hating an artist your parents liked,” Cordero said, “but when you hear us play, you realize that the only reason you didn’t like Neil was because your parents liked it. I couldn’t do this if it was completely straight up. It’s really fun when we can add our own elements. I like the creativity.”
While Cordero is enjoying the band’s seemingly endless wave of success, he admits he’s been focusing a lot more on his own songwriting these days.
His band, Tijuana Strip Club, consists mainly of members from Super Diamond, and Cordero says his success as a songwriter would take precedence over Super Diamond.
“Super Diamond is my living now and I love it. This is all I have to do and I don’t want my desk job,” he said. “But if I got a record deal tomorrow for my own songwriting, I’d be telling my agent, ‘Don’t book any more shows.’ I work my ass off and I’m writing songs better than I ever have, so I wouldn’t hesitate to jump on an opportunity outside of Super Diamond.”
Super Diamond fans might want to ignore the previous statement and pretend they never read it.
For now, they can just enjoy Cordero and Super Diamond for what they are: one of the most entertaining musical acts performing on the midlevel club and festival circuit.