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.
Not your typical heartthrob, Diamond is revered for his songwriting and story-telling, and his charisma was – and still is – legendary, says tribute artist Joey Purpura, who has lived and breathed Diamond’s music since 2004.
Purpura has travelled across Canada and parts of the Caribbean with his tribute show, Diamond in the Rough, and is about bring it to Vernon’s Schubert Centre in a fundraiser for the Vernon Legion, July 25.
“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.”
While growing up, Purpura says Diamond wasn’t on his radar, so he says he had to start from the ground up when it came to performing his music.
In 2002, the Toronto-based impersonator began researching the singer’s life, studying his every move, as well as the songs and stories 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 Barbra 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 degree when he abandoned his studies to pursue music.
“He recorded and released a lot of albums and so he has a huge backlog of music,” said Purpura 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.’”
Purpura brings Diamond in the Rough to the Schubert Centre Friday, July 25 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $25 in advance, available at the Ticket Seller, 250-549-7469, www.ticketseller.ca, or $30 at the door.