BWW REVIEWS: Rock Musician Dean Colley Brings His Amazing Neil Diamond Tribute to the El Portal
Hot August Night/Neil Diamond tribute concert with Dean Colley/at Monroe Forum Theare, El Portal, NoHo/through June 15
Raw, guttural and anguished is how I always remember pop icon Neil Diamond's delivery, full of fire and brimstone...and the reverberating loneliness of the ordinary man. He was never my favorite singer, but his songs are melodic, unforgettably distinct and rhythmically contagious. As I listened to Dean Colley Saturday night at the Monroe Theatre of the El Portal in HoHo, I surprisingly remembered every single song in Diamond's repertoire, and with Colley's incredible resemblance in sight and gravely-voiced sound and style, I gained a new respect and appreciation for the Neil Diamond songbook and for the man himself. When he sang, he was totally connected to the music beat to beat, and Dean Colley really captures Diamond's fierce passion.
Colley has been singing Neil Diamond for 18 years in clubs and casinos including Las Vegas and has gotten full-speed ahead encouragement from the man himself "...don't ever tire of doing my songs." Colley doesn't talk much during the two-hour set, but in between tells a few amusing jokes and makes his audience feel right at home; what the man does is sing, sing and sing some more - and I mean sing well - with great backup from lead singer Maira Barela, Ty Dennis, formerly with the Doors, on drums, Terence Elliott on lead guitar, Aaron Samson on bass guitar and Barry Nehrli on keyboards. It's one terrific musical combo!
Highlights of the show, which is mainly Neil Diamond's concert from August 1972 at the Greek - thus the title Hot August Night - include: "Song Sung Blue", "Solitary Man", "Shilo", "Kentucky Woman", "Cherry, Cherry" and the slower ballads such as "Play Me", "I Am I Said", and "Desiree". He included two songs from Diamond's super hit film The Jazz Singer "Amazed and Confused" and "America". Maira Barela also dueted with Colley on the all-time famous Streisand/Diamond duet: "You Don't Bring Me Flowers". Barela does a really good Barbra and the combo really knocked this one out of the park. Colley does justice to every number, whether fast or slow, and really grabs hold of those special moments where Diamond, in fine acting form, made lyrics literally roar as they soared into mid-air.
If you like Neil Diamond, you cannot afford to miss Dean Colley's amazingly entertaining show. As I looked to my left and to my right, I witnessed row upon row of septuagenarians or older swaying and clapping in their seats and joining in the singing on "America" with "Today...today" ringing loud and clear. Audiences have always had a love affair with Neil Diamond, and it appears that Dean Colley is fast becoming synonymous with the living legend.