His voice may not be what it used to be, but Neil Diamond can still sell out concerts and provoke girlish screams from the audience.
His charisma was – and still is – legendary.
Joey Purpura has lived and breathed Neil Diamond since 2004, travelled across the country and parts of the Caribbean with his tribute show Diamond in the Rough.
“I’ve always been able to do voices, as long as I could remember,” said the 39-year-old. “When I found out I could do a pretty good Neil Diamond, my friends encouraged me to go on stage.”
The singer wasn’t on Purpura’s radar growing up and so he really started from the ground up.
In 2002, the Toronto-based impersonator began researching the singer’s life, studying his every move, song and story behind the music.
He found a Las Vegas-based designer able to replicate Diamond’s glittery costumes of the mid-70s.
“I wanted to research his life because I not only sing his songs, I tell a story and highlight his life just to make it more interesting,” said Purpura.
He searched for little known facts about the singer. For instance, Diamond grew up in the same neighbourhood as Barbara Streisand. They went to the same school and sang in the same choir.
Purpura also discovered Diamond was a pre-med student and was six months and 10 credits short of a pre-med degree when he abandoned his studies to pursue music.
“He recorded and released a lot of albums and so he has a huge back log of music,” Purpura said about the singer’s international appeal. “And he continues to tour. His music is very diverse and his songs, as one biographer said, cut through your heart and soul, making you feel his pain, anguish and joy.”
Diamond was never a heartthrob, but an artist revered for his songwriting and story telling.
See for yourself on Saturday, August 30 at 8 p.m. at the Campbell River Royal Canadian Legion, 301 – 11th Ave. Tickets are $25 advance/$30 door, call (250) 286-6831 and pick up the tickets at the Legion. solitaryman.ca