Storm chaser by day, rock star by night
What: Diamond in the Rough: The Ultimate Tribute to Neil Diamond
When: Saturday, June 4, 7 p.m.
Where: Elks Theatre, 117 E. Gurley St., Prescott
Tickets: $22-$25. Available at the door or at prescottelkstheater.com
Greg Ansel is a storm chaser. When we reached him by telephone on May 26, he was working in Kansas.
But it’s mostly a hobby. He’s as a volunteer with the National Weather Service, and usually finds enough weather in Arizona to keep him busy, at least during monsoon season.
Ansel is also Neil Diamond. He plays Diamond in a tribute concert, and the show is coming to the Elks Theatre on Saturday, June 4.
“I try and make my schedule so I can do both,” he said, adding that he’s been chasing storms for 10 years.
“I’ll be coming back just for the Prescott show and I head back out for another couple weeks.”
But music pays the bills, and his show, “Diamond in the Rough: The Ultimate Tribute to Neil Diamond,” is designed to give audiences their money’s worth.
Ansel said he got into the tribute show in a purely pragmatic move.
“I worked on a cruise ship for two years … and we’d do ‘Crackling Rosie’ and September Morn,’ and, of course, ‘Sweet Caroline,’ and I remember that, after the shows, people would come up and say, ‘Oh, I love your Neil Diamond songs, they sound so great, you sound a lot like him,” Ansel said.
His mom suggested he do an all-Diamond show, and then fate jumped in.
“We were doing a ‘Journey’ tribute band, and our singer lost his voice,” Ansel said. “And they were saying, ‘What should we do?’ and I said, “Let’s try this Neil Diamond thing.”
That was four years ago.
The shows vary; sometimes, if they’re available, Ansel will bring in a full string section and groups of backup singers.
For the Prescott show, he plans a seven- or eight-piece band.
Ansel said Neil Diamond, while not his own favorite singer, was “one I grew up with because my mom was a big fan.”
A practical consideration with creating a show is whether a singer or group has enough popular songs with which to build it. Diamond was no problem.
“We do 23 songs in the show, and they’re all great songs,” Ansel said. “People don’t always realize Neil Diamond did all these songs until we start singing them.”
He pointed out that he’s not an impersonator, but he does try to give his audience the feel of being at a Neil Diamond concert.
“Usually, about the third or fourth song, we have people getting up and dancing. I really love that part of the experience.”