WORTHINGTON - If you’re lucky, your ticket to “I Am, He Said: A Celebration of Neil Diamond” is already purchased and tucked away in your pocket.
Otherwise, Neil Diamond fans are on notice that it’s time to call or visit the Memorial Auditorium Performing Arts Center’s box office to seal the deal for this performance scheduled at 7 p.m. next Saturday.
“There are about 100 tickets remaining,” reported Tammy Makram, MAPAC’s managing director.
“Everyone who has seen this show has raved about the musicianship and showmanship on display,” she continued. “We have people coming from the Twin Cities and Fargo, some who’ve seen it already seven or eight times. They love it so much, and I think that speaks for itself.”
Headlining “I Am, He Said” is Matt Vee, a veteran musician and St. Cloud resident.
Vee, a nephew of legendary 1960s pop star Bobby Vee, teamed up with his cousins, Jeff and Tommy, and other seasoned musicians to form a 12-piece band that rocks out to at least 25 hits of Neil Diamond.
“Everyone knows so many of Neil Diamond’s songs,” said Makram, noting that Diamond’s 50-plus year musical career has yielded numerous Top 10 hits and more than 120 million records sold to date.
Vee, an active musician since age 13, was of course familiar with Diamond’s work since his childhood.
Vee graduated from high school in Fargo, N.D., in 1983, and after beginning his post-secondary education as an English major and music therapy minor at the University of Minnesota, he took a break from his studies before eventually returning to complete his degree as a business major.
“I took a 13-year hiatus with Johnny Holm,” Vee grinned.
Vee played lead guitar with the Johnny Holm Band during those 13 years, and later toured with his uncle Bobby Vee, contributing as lead guitarist and backup vocalist.
He performs at least twice a year with the St. Cloud-based Fabulous Armadillos, and his involvement with that renowned regional group prompted the “Celebration of Neil Diamond” gig.
“I didn’t anticipate it being like this, to be honest,” said Vee, who is also a writer and recording artist. “The Fabulous Armadillos do four theme shows with a run of 10 performances each year at the Pioneer Place on Fifth theater in St. Cloud, and invariably a few Neil Diamond songs popped up in those.
“I got a big response to those numbers, with people often coming up afterwards commenting that I sounded so much like Neil Diamond and asking for more of his music.”
Hence, Vee developed “I Am, He Said” three years ago and has since watched the project catch on like… “Cracklin’ Rosie.”
“We debuted it at the Pioneer theater and it took off like crazy,” attested Vee. “The very first time we did it, we booked two additional nights because it sold out so fast.
“It’s amazing how it’s snowballed, and we’ve taken it all over the region. Really, we’re fortunate to live where we do because there’s such a great network of theaters, and their managers have shared with each other what’s working,” he added.
“We’ve been lucky to get a great reception wherever we go - we played two nights at the Minnesota State Fair’s Leinie Lodge in August and it was absolutely jam-packed for both 75-minute shows. We’re having a blast, and I think the whole band loves it, too.”
The band in question includes two keyboardists, a percussionist, a three-piece brass section, two guitarists and more.
“My wife Julie does backup vocals, and she joins me for a duet on ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,’” said Vee.
Julie and Matt Vee have five adult children between the ages of 21 and 27. They also have an 18-month-old grandson, Oliver, whom Vee calls “the joy of our life.”