by SARAH RODMAN
Friday February 2, 2001
Do you believe Neil Diamond just doesn’t tour often enough? Then Super Diamond has what you crave. Fronted by vocal ringer Randy “Surreal Neil” Cordero, Super Diamond captures the essence of Mr. Jonathan Livingston Seagull himself, replicating everything from the blinding sequin shirts of ’70s era Neil right down to the most detailed growling nuance of classic songs such as “Cherry, Cherry” and “Love on the Rocks.” But the mainly 30-something musicians in Super Diamond also play original music, don’t consider themselves a tribute band and feel compelled to crank up Diamond’s songs with distortion and weird keyboard lines to slice the cheese factor in half.
But they’re not being ironic, Cordero insists. Indeed, Super Diamond, which performs at Axis on Thursday, genuinely enjoys the music of the man in Sansabelts.
“It’s not a parody,” says Cordero who, aside from the bad threads, doesn’t attempt to look like the bushy Grammy winner. “We do all Neil Diamond songs but we take all these great songs that he’s written from the ’60s, ’70s and up to the early ’80s and we play them more contemporary. We do them more like an alternative rock band.”
Cordero started mimicking Diamond in 1989 on a lark at a party and admits that they have fun with Diamond’s music, often “morphing” famous Neil numbers into others that have similar chord changes or phrasing. For instance, they do an excellent blend of “Sweet Caroline” with Guns N’ Roses’ “Sweet Child ‘O Mine.”
Together since 1993, the group, which has sold out multiple nights at Irving Plaza in New York and the House of Blues in Los Angeles, goes even one bizarre step further on Halloween by dressing up like other bands but still singing Neil Diamond songs.
“We were the Cure one time,” says Cordero, “and we morphed `Crunchy Granola Suite’ into `In Between Days.’ ”
Cordero has been a “closet” Diamond fan since childhood. He heard from Diamond’s children, his fan club members and his drummer Vince Charles that the man himself was a fan. And last December, Cordero actually met and performed with Diamond in L.A.
“We talked for about a half-hour. He was really cool, a really nice guy,” says Cordero, who played “I Am . . . I Said” with Diamond. “The first thing he said was `Thank you for what you’re doing.’ ”
Cordero says Diamond is aware that many of the group’s sold-out shows are populated by “people in their 20s and mid-30s and so he just likes the fact that we’re turning a lot of young people on to his music. And so I said, `Well, thank you for not suing us.’ ”
Apparently, Diamond’s time has come. In the film “Saving Silverman,” opening Feb. 9, the three main characters play in a Neil Diamond cover band. The leader of the band is played by Jack Black from “High Fidelity” and the hilarious folk-metal band Tenacious D. “Tenacious D opened for us at the Viper Room, so I wonder if he maybe got some pointers for his Neil Diamond tribute band from us,” Cordero said.
He’ll be able to ask Black in person and maybe even sing with him, as Superdiamond has been invited to play the film’s premiere party. In fact, it could be Neil Diamond in triplicate because the genuine article also will be attending the premiere. “He told Vince his drummer that he’s happy we’re playing it and that he sings `Holly Holy’ in the key of E.”