Nightclub singer looks forward to star's Portland concert

It wasn’t lost on Tony Starlight when one of his all-time favorite (living) entertainers announced a 50th-anniversary world tour and a stop in Portland on July 28.

Neil Diamond, one of the many performers on who Starlight patterns his tribute nightclub act, will play the Moda Center with all the glitz, glamour and “Sweet Caroline” the 75-year-old legend can still muster on stage.

“A lot of people sent me the bulletin (on the tour), and I’m on board to get tickets,” Starlight says.

Tickets go on sale at 10 a.m. Friday, Dec. 9, via the Rose Quarter box office, phone at 1-800-745-3000 and online at Tickets are $39.50-$125.

Frank Sinatra and Dean Martin, also highlights of Starlight’s act, are no longer with us.

“My lesson learned was, about 20 years ago, Lou Rawls came to Spirit Mountain Casino,” Starlight says. “And I was like, ‘Oh, I’ll catch him next time.’ There wasn’t a next time, he died shortly thereafter. I told myself if there was anybody I wanted to see, I’m not going to miss them. I went to see The Eagles, the last (Portland) concert with Henley/Frey,” because Glenn Frey died in January.

“Most of the acts I like aren’t around anymore,” Starlight says. “By the time I got into Frank Sinatra, it was the early ‘90s. He was pretty much done and playing places that sold out instantly or were impossible to afford in your 20s.”

Starlight, 46, has seen Diamond twice, here and in Seattle. His father, a big Diamond fan, and sister have seen him many times.

Starlight’s Diamond act plays up his style and performance, while singing favorites such as “Sweet Caroline, “I Am I Said” and “Brother Love’s Travelling Salvation Show.”

“He still puts on a great show,” Starlight says. “He still takes being an entertainer very seriously. He has the stage look. Even in his 70s he puts an effort into what he wears on stage. He’s one of the few people — he writes his own songs, a serious songwriter, but he takes the art of entertaining a crowd as its own animal.

“The main thing about Neil Diamond is he’s so happy to be there and the audience feels that. That’s so great to see artists and performers who love what they do, and they appreciate the opportunity to share music with people. How many people have 50-year careers? There’ll be fewer of them as time goes by.”

Starlight can relate to what Diamond probably feels every night on stage: He’s “entirely sick” of “Sweet Caroline,” but audiences love it so much that Starlight sings it in every show. “(Diamond’s) been doing the same songs for 40 to 50 years,” Starlight says.

Starlight’s Diamond character is an exaggeration of the real guy. “He says things confident and cocky about his abilities, but in a humble way,” he says. “I have a lot of fun at his expense, but it’s loving. I’m making fun WITH him.” When he does “September Morn,” he shadow-skates as an Olympic ice skater.

Starlight adds, of playing Diamond: “No one ever thinks it’s blasphemous. The strangest comment I’ve ever received was, there was a guy about 80 years old, waving me to come over. I’m thinking, ‘What’s this old guy going to say?’ And, he says, ‘Neil Diamond couldn’t carry your jockstrap, young man.’”

Tony Starlight puts on the “Neil Diamond Experience Holiday Style,” 7:30 p.m. Dec. 26, and the Neil Diamond 76th Birthday Celebration, 8 p.m. Jan. 28, at Tony Starlight Showroom, 1125 S.E. Madison St. For more:

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