Las Vegas Sun

September 30, 2014

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King of Diamonds

Neil Diamond just started his 37-city U.S. tour -- tonight he begins a four-night stand at Madison Square Garden.

Hey Neil, you forgot to pencil in a Vegas stop!

In a recent interview, Diamond, 67, said he isn't considering a Vegas residency like fellow sexagenarian icons Bette Midler, Cher, Elton John and Barry Manilow, all of whom remain big concert draws.

"I feel it's like one of my obligations as an artist to come to people's hometowns and play my music for them," Diamond told the Detroit Free Press.

This is a major moment in Diamond's career -- he's been uncool so long that he's suddenly beyond cool. His current cred was certainly helped along by the fact that his two most recent albums, "Home Before Dark" and "12 Songs" were produced by Rick Rubin, who did the honors for Johnny Cash's final recordings. Diamond's last tour in 2005 grossed nearly $80 million from 86 shows that drew 1.2 million people.

While cities like Pittsburgh, Tulsa and Tampa are singing along to "Song Sung Blue" and "I Am, I Said," Diamondheads in Vegas can turn for comfort to one man: Jay White. For nearly 10 years, White has been impersonating Neil Diamond at the Le Bistro Theatre at the Riviera Hotel and Casino, and he's the top man in an admittedly narrow field.

A former insurance salesman from Detroit who nailed Neil's moves with repeat watchings of the movie "The Jazz Singer," White was offered a seven-week gig at a Reno casino, and it went so well, he packed up and moved to Vegas, where he did Diamond duty for years in "Legends in Concert" at the Imperial Hotel.

White met Diamond backstage before his 1996 show at the MGM Grand, and asked the superstar to sign a 1977 publicity photo. "Is this me or you?," Diamond asked.

You can catch White at the Riviera at 7 p.m. Sunday through Wednesday; he'll also be playing Diamond on the big screen this December in the Ron Howard-directed film "Frost/Nixon," an adaptation of a Broadway play, which itself was based on a series of televised interviews that British TV personality David Frost had with former President Nixon in 1977.

Talking about impersonators got me thinking: Wouldn't it be hilarious if someone put together a Woodstock-style outdoor festival in Vegas starring only tribute bands? Imagine the amazing lineup possibilities: You could have the Beatles and the Who, Elvis and the Ramones...

Just putting it out there.

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