Springfield Arts Council launches showtime season with tribute to Neil Diamond

Credit: Contributed

Credit: Contributed

Whether it was writing songs for The Monkees, charting with his own hits with singalong anthems that stick in your mind like “Sweet Caroline,” “Cracklin’ Rosie” or “America” or gospel-tinged tunes such as “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show,” Neil Diamond’s music has been among the soundtrack of people’s lives for five decades.

With Diamond’s health status keeping him on the sidelines, some performers just can’t let the music stay idle. Family members of another pop music star, Bobby Vee, are keeping the legacy going.

“I Am, He Said: Celebrating the Music of Neil Diamond” will bring the hits to kick off the Springfield Arts Council’s 45th Showtime season at 8 p.m. Saturday at the Clark State Performing Arts Center. The show is appropriate for all audiences and tickets are available.

Matt Vee, along with bandmates and cousins Jeff and Tommy Vee, Bobby Vee’s sons, had a unique connection to Diamond. Before he performed his own songs, Diamond was a songwriter in New York’s legendary Brill Building, a pop music hit factory where Bobby Vee interacted with Diamond and fellow legend Carole King.

Matt Vee said he grew up with Diamond’s music and wanted to make this unique to usual tribute, a label he avoids with this show to pay it proper respect.

“It’s a reverent show. We are not trying to imitate or dress like Neil, we’re putting on a very positive show that is a lot of fun and joy-filled ride through the music,” Matt Vee said.

What instead goes in is the connection to how Diamond related to an audience. Matt Vee said that means bringing his electric personality to life, pacing a show the way he did and interacting with the audience.

Diamond’s tunes have found longevity in reaching new audiences. Oscar-winning filmmaker Quentin Tarantino used Diamond songs on soundtracks of two of his hit films.

One of the hardest decisions is which of Diamond’s songs to put into the show. Matt Vee is a fan of the more spiritual tunes like “Holly Holy” and “Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” along with “Solitary Man” and “I Am…I Said.” He said to expect the songs to sound like the originals.

Another aspect that will stand out is how this is a family show with the 12-piece band led by the Vee cousins, Matt’s wife and a grandson. The Vees’ family pop legacy that goes deeper than Bobby Vee’s six gold singles and 10 top 20 hits.

Bobby and brother Bill, Matt’s dad, formed their band The Shadows in early 1959 to play the Winter Dance Party, replacing Buddy Holly, Richie Valens and the Big Bopper, who died in a plane crash the night before, an event that became part of rock lore.

Another legend, Bob Dylan, played keyboards in their band for three weeks before setting off on his career.

Vee’s hits included the chart-topper “Take Good Care of My Baby,” “Run to Him,” “Rubber Ball” and “Come Back When You Grow Up.” He stayed active for years in music and passed away in 2016.

“We learned so well from Bobby,” Matt Vee said. “We’ll be singing to even the person in the last seat as ambassadors of Neil Diamond and his music.”


What: “I Am, He Said: Celebrating the Music of Neil Diamond”

Where: Clark State Performing Arts Center, 300 South Fountain Ave., Springfield

When: 8 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 18

Admission: $35-51.50 (convenience and handling charges will also be added)

More info: springfieldartscouncil.org/event/neil

About the Author