Photo contributed

Steve Richards will perform as Neil Diamond, and also Garth Brooks, as he brings his tribute shows to Watseka Sept. 28.

A Neil Diamond/Garth Brooks Tribute is coming to the Watseka Theatre Sept. 28.

Steve Richards will present his Diamond Live — The Tribute and The Heart of Garth performances that night.

He said recently that he is looking forward to coming to Watseka for the first time.

Richards said via a telephone interview recently that music is a way to reach people, and legends in the music industry like Brooks and Diamond have done so through the years. People respond to their music and flock to their shows.

“They really get through to people with their music,” he said. “There’s a power in their singing.”

Richards said whether it is heartbreak, losing someone, falling in love or another emotion, music is a way to tell that story and reach people. “It says something,” he said.

Richards has worked with a number of artists through the years. His current guitar player, Jim Pearson, worked with Neil Diamond and others.

Richards said his band is a very important part of the show.

“I have a great group of people,” he said. “We are a family and that’s important. We have fun. The audience knows that and people can feel that.”

Richards said he has met Brooks. In fact, he’s performed with him.

“I’ve seen Garth seven or eight times,” he said. “I got to sing with him in Las Vegas. We blew it off the stage.”

Richards said Brooks was taking questions and Richards raised his hand and said ‘I’d like to do a song with you.”

They performed “The River”.

“After the show I got to talk to him,” he said, noting that Brooks grabbed him and told him that he made the Brooks engagement “extra special”.

“People said ‘you did it like you rehearsed it’,” he said. “People thought I was a ringer and thought I was part of the show. He’s a great entertainer.”

Richards has not met Diamond, but has followed his music for years. “I talked with people in his camp,” he said. “And I’ve seen him in concert at least 20 times.”

He said Diamond, like Brooks, has a way of capturing the audience. “With what they do to an audience, we’d better be able to really give what they do,” he said. “They do it because they have a passion and love for the audience, and we do too.

“You just can’t stand there with the hat and the shirt,” he said. “It’s got to be from the heart. If you don’t, you aren’t going to reach anyone.”

Richards started performing in the 1970s. “I started doing Elvis,” he said. After he gave that up there was an ad for a Neil Diamond impersonator. He wasn’t sure he wanted to audition, but people coaxed him into doing it and he won. It was a few years later when he started doing the Garth Brooks impersonations.

He is looking forward to coming to Watseka. Richards been rehearsing by himself and also with the band. “We are going to be as sharp as we possibly can, he said. “We go beyond expectations.”

Tickets are available at Doors open at 5:30 p.m. Showtime is 7:15 p.m.