On a beautiful, sunny and pleasant Sunday afternoon at Polliwog Park Amphitheater in Manhattan Beach Beach (August 9, 2009), Fantastic Diamond put on a show for the ages, playing for almost two hours with a 15 minute intermission. Fantastic Diamond was just another star entry to perform at the Manhattan Beach Concerts in the Park Series held at Polliwog.
Fantastic Diamond Concert Review
Kevin Hogan, playing Neil Diamond, was spot-on in his impersonation of the pop superstar, speaking and singing voice equally. His intonation was guttural but not kitschy and he never jeopardized the song melodies in doing so. Fantastic Diamond, like any tribute band worth its salt, remained true to the beat, the song composition, lyrics, and lyrical license that is Neil Diamond. The greatest accolade a tribute band can receive is when an audience member can close his/her eyes and think that it’s the real band performing. In this case, you’d think Fantastic Diamond was Neil Diamond – albeit Neil Diamond playing in a park.
Hogan, like Neil Diamond, was dressed in sparkling Vegas shirt attire (with blue jeans, of course) and established an immediate and longlasting rapport with his audience of 5,000 people. The musicianship of his band was also impressive despite the challenging acoustics of playing in a park (Polliwog Park Amphitheater is not an amphitheater like the Hollywood Bowl or Greek Theater – it is a park). The piano playing of Alex Caselli was good – her riffs suggesting jazz training. Her keyboard was not a first rate one and the song compositions often made her playing seem a bit choppy but nonetheless she was a pleasure to listen to. Frank Browne’s acoustic guitar was consistent and often the glue that of the song but the show-stopper at times was the saxophone mastery of Rich Tyznik who was aggressive, confident, and like Hogan (Diamond), established his own rapport with the audience.
ABBA The Music with Super Diamond at The Hollywood Bowl
On Saturday, June 27, 2009, ABBA The Music performed at The Hollywood Bowl. Another Neil Diamond tribute band called Super Diamond was the opening act.
If Fantastic Diamond had played at the Hollywood Bowl backing up ABBA The Music instead of Super Diamond, the experience would have been better. I don’t like criticizing in a negative way but I feel I must, especially after listening to Fantastic Diamond perform in Manhattan Beach. The lead singer of Super Diamond over-emphasized the guttural tones of Neil Diamond to the point that it seemed as if he were doing stomach crunches while singing. The guttural miscues also served, I believe, to hide the fact that his singing voice was a half note or so below pitch so the end result was too much yelling and audience-grimacing on notes he couldn’t reach. Oh, and he over-acted his part trying to be way too cool.
Now, if Fantastic Diamond had played that night with ABBA The Music, the experience, I’m sure, would have been entirely different. That is to say, it might have been one of the best concerts I’ve ever attended. Fantastic Diamond would have benefitted from a professional stage with professional acoustics, back up singers to smooth the sound and equipment (a better piano) to simulate the real Neil Diamond show.
ABBA The Music was absolutely phenomenal as they had the audience shaking their heads continually because of how perfect they matched the beat, musicianship and singing quality of the authentic ABBA. ABBA The Music even flew in the original guitarist and saxophone player from Sweden for the event. It was truly ABBA redux.
If you are presented with the opportunity to see ABBA The Music, buy the tickets and go. Same for Fantastic Diamond. Buy the tickets and go see them. It’ll make you happy; you’ll reminisce and the musicianship will impress you.
Note to The Hollywood Bowl – book Fantastic Diamond with ABBA The Music in 2010.
Fantastic Diamond Song List
(not in order)
- Longfellow Serenade
- Cracklin’ Rosie
- Beautiful Noise
- Brooklyn Roads
- Cherry, Cherry
- Love On The Rocks
- You Don’t Bring Me Flowers
- Brother Love’s Travelin’ Salvation Show
- Holly Holy
- Song Sung Blue
- I’m A Believer (performed famously by the Monkees)
- Solitary Man
- Girl You’ll Be A Woman Soon
- Thank The Lord For The Night Time
- Kentucky Woman
- I Am I Said
- You Got To Me
- Forever In Blue Jeans
- If You Know What I Mean
- Hello Again
- Play Me
- September Morn
- Sweet Caroline
About Fantastic Diamond
Fantastic Diamond is a Neil Diamond tribute band that includes Kevin Hogan (playing Neil Diamond) on lead vocals and acoustic guitar; Frank Browne on acoustic and electric guitar; Rich Tyznik on keyboards, saxophone, back up vocals; Alex Caselli on keyboards and back up vocals; Anthony Sileccio on bass guitar and back up vocals, and Dieter Weinzettl on drums, everything percussion and back up vocals.