Sons at his side as Denny covers Diamond
By Annie Alleman November 9, 2012 9:24AM
♦ 8 p.m. Nov. 10
♦ Pheasant Run Resort, 4051 E. Main St., St. Charles
♦ Tickets, $42
♦ (630) 584-6342; Foxvalleyrep.org
Denny Diamond is more than just a tribute act.
Sure, you’ll hear all of Neil Diamond’s classic songs, but there’s more to Dennis Svehla’s act than that. As Denny Diamond, the Harvard musician performs Diamond hits such as “Sweet Caroline,” “Cherry Cherry,” “I’m a Believer” and more.
“We don’t handle it like a lot of tribute acts that try and be the artist,” Svehla said. “I really just use my own personality onstage, and my two sons are on with me, so it’s like a family show with Neil Diamond music being the catalyst for the whole thing.”
Known as the Family Jewels, Lucas Svehla is 24 and Spenser Svehla is 23. Along with their dad, they usually perform as a trio (in larger venues they bring along the group Change of Habit to serve as the backup band).
“They got into the older music because it’s not processed,” Denny Svehla said. “They like that older music.”
Svehla began performing as Neil Diamond after competing on the NBC show “Your Big Break” in 2000.
“They’d bring you up on stage and you’d disappear in a puff of smoke, and when you came back you were dressed trying to look like the guy,” he said. “People tell me I look like Tim Allen. So I came out with my hair poofed out and a satin shirt on, trying to look like the ’80s Neil Diamond.”
That appearance opened doors for him. The group Sixpence None the Richer saw him perform when they were playing the Kendall County Fair. They liked what they saw and invited him to Nashville, Tenn., where he performed at a Halloween party in the lead singer’s backyard. That led to doing a Neil Diamond act with the band on the side.
“As those guys got more and more popular and couldn’t do my shows, the boys stepped in and turned it into a family trio,” he said.
He’s never actually met Neil Diamond, but would like to.
“A lot of people don’t realize that UB40 song ‘Red Red Wine’ is a Neil Diamond song. A lot of people don’t realize he wrote three of four songs for the Monkees, including ‘I’m a Believer,’ ” he said. “He wrote ‘Sunflower’ for Glen Campbell. He’s got quite a repertoire out there that people don’t recognize.”
The show works because it’s a family show, Svehla said.
“The spark in the whole thing is that people really like having a family onstage again,” he said. “It works out very well. People are pleasantly surprised when they walk in. I always hear, ‘I expected some guy trying to act like Neil Diamond, and I ended up with a father and two sons having a nice time onstage telling family stories.’ ”
He has already decided to concentrate on the “Beautiful Noise” album, he said.
“That was a pretty successful album for Neil and has some fun songs on it that I want to re-introduce to people,” he said. “And of course we’re going to throw the standards in there.”
Annie Alleman is a local free-lance writer.