Dry your eyes
Most music fans probably are able to determine whether a band is good at what it does. That is to say, the idea of a band performing well may not be a wholly aesthetic determination. Whether that band’s music is appealing to any given listener, on the other hand, is completely aesthetic in nature, referring as it does to that ever-foggy landscape we call “taste.” This is what makes one listener rock out to, say, the alterna-rap-metal of Limp Bizkit and another to the VH1 adult pop sounds of Neil Diamond.
Within that context, it is relatively easy to understand the appeal of Diamond cover band Super Diamond (led by Randy Cordeiro under the stage moniker “Surreal Neil”). The San Francisco sextet, whose Web address is www.superdiamond.com, performed last weekend at Harlow’s. And Super Diamond is competent—not quite as good as I had hoped, but definitely in the general area of quality. But at some level, that’s almost irrelevant. After all, Diamond himself tours relatively infrequently these days, and when he does, the ticket prices are bound to be high, and the seating precipitous and distant. With a tribute band like Super Diamond, the audience is front and center, literally grooving at (Surreal) Neil’s feet.
Philosophically, there seem to be two issues at play: On one hand, fans of Diamond want to hear him, and they want to hear him so badly that they are willing to pay $10 to hear a band like Super Diamond play. The songs of Diamond are played and played relatively well, and perhaps that’s all that need be done.
But on the other hand, most of the audience seemed largely unconcerned with the activity onstage. Though there certainly were a few easily identifiable Neil Diamond fans in various states of drunken revelry, there were still more people chatting and occasionally glancing toward the stage with bemused expressions. This was in direct opposition to the effect of the opening act, a disco cover band whose name did not appear on the Harlow’s schedule. During that set, the audience was actively dancing, and the band did much to energize the crowd. During Super Diamond’s set, however, the audience stopped moving, for the most part.
Perhaps the music of Diamond just isn’t as compelling as Wild Cherry’s “Play That Funky Music,” or perhaps, to the audience, a couple of hours of Diamond’s music just wasn’t enough to keep their interest. Think about it in terms of a double-CD Diamond greatest-hits collection. Good music? Sure. Would you listen to the whole thing in one sitting? I’d have to say no.
Again, though, perhaps this kind of thinking isn’t even relevant. Harlow’s was packed, as it apparently always is when Super Diamond plays. The audience didn’t seem all that focused on the band, but then again, many seem to think of Harlow’s as more of a pickup spot than a live-music venue (although the club has featured some superb live acts over the years). As with many popular area bands, sometimes the point is not to listen to the music but simply to be where the party is. And, indeed, Super Diamond brings the party with it.