Good Times at the Clausen Center

by Christine Wiese

Denny Diamond and the Jewels, known off the circuit as Denny Svehla and his progeny, Lucas and Spenser, put on quite a show at The Clausen Center in Holstein last Saturday. Their vibrant tribute to the great Neil Diamond went leagues beyond what any mere impersonator could ever hope to accomplish.

The elder Svehla nailed almost to perfection Diamond’s inimitable style and vocal timbre in “Holly Holy”. Ditto for “Song Sung Blue” which opened the door to “Sweet Caroline”. Prior to hurtling themselves into this grand piece of music, the trio’s leader implored the crowd to “Throw away your inhibitions for about sixteen bars!”. And it appeared that even the most reticent of those assembled responded to his plea by eagerly joining in the song’s chorus. It almost seemed as though folks had come prepared for such a request – had been practicing for weeks. The sweetest sound came rising up from the back of the house to the front. Then came the resounding finale, “So Good! So Good! So Good!” which is what this concert was.

It’s always a special occasion when listeners hear with their hearts instead of their ears. When that happens a bond is formed and a rare synthesis of art and audience is born. There’s not much that can rival that feeling.

Except, of course, rocking and rolling and clapping like crazy. This occurred when Dad stepped back and let the boys rip through some perennial favorites. Johnny Cash’s “Folsom Prison Blues” and “Ring of Fire” produced loud and raucous applause as did Buddy Holly’s “That’ll Be the Day” and The Everly Brothers’ “Bye Bye Love”. Sunny memories of long ago summer days stirred within and brought big grins of recollection.

Added to all the happy musicality was the time honoured and dusty collection of adolescent tomfoolery. “Do you have Prince Albert in a can? and Is your refrigerator running?” These venerable knee slappers (a la junior high hilarity) melded well with the easy banter between father and sons. Their back and fourths were made with the warm, gentle raillery only possible among loving family members or friends of long standing. The latter contains all devout Diamond fans gathered in Holstein last week – a bunch of good people remembering good times.

“Brother Love’s Traveling Salvation Show” pretty much summed up the night’s ambiance. “Pack up the babies and grab the old ladies and everyone go.”. Who, in their right mind, could refuse that elated exhortation?

People stood around in little groups chatting at the conclusion of the entertainment as though loathe to go home. “How’d you like the show?” was heard again and again. One guy’s answer was couched in wry good humour. “Excellent!” he was heard to say. “Only bad part is I’m old enough to remember all those songs.” In this case we’ll gladly take the dichotomy.

Denny Diamond and the Jewels brought to the stage comfort food for the soul and it was, indeed, a bountiful repast.