Nashuan has paid tribute to 'Sweet Caroline' singer for 1-1/2 decades


NASHUA – Ron Eskin wears his hair a bit shaggy and sideburns a bit long. This look, he admits, keeps him "locked in the '80s." And that's just where he needs to be. Eskin, who by day runs his architecture firm in Nashua, is a Neil Diamond tribute singer. For the past 15 or so years, Eskin has donned versions of Diamond's throwback sequined shirts and unleashed his low, bellowing Diamond-like voice at weddings, parties and other gatherings all over New England. Tonight, he performs at Abbie Griffin Park in Merrimack. "I really enjoy singing, and I get a lot of pleasure out of seeing reactions from people," Eskin said. IF YOU GO While Eskin doesn't claim to be Diamond's twin or to have better chops than the singer-songwriter, whose mega-hits include "America" and "Sweet Caroline," he can relate to the rush of the stage. "It's a great feeling when you're performing," Eskin said. "There's nothing that compares to that." It all started some 20 years ago, when Eskin was on summer vacation at Old Orchard Beach. There, just for fun, he went into a sound booth, complete with headphones and Diamond background tracks, to record himself. He didn't know that his rendition was being broadcast over the amusement park. "I got this fantastic reception," Eskin said. "I thought, 'Maybe I got something here.' " Some time later, in the 1990s, Eskin caught the front edge of the karaoke wave. He began entering and winning local singing contests, all by way of Neil Diamond songs. "When I would sing his songs, people would say I sound exactly like him," Eskin said. "I would get so many compliments." At one show during the mid-'90s, a promoter saw Eskin and asked him to join an act with six other impersonators, including "Marilyn Monroe," "Elvis," "Garth Brooks" and "Reba McEntire." SO YOU KNOW NEIL? At first, he hated it. "I think it was because of the spotlights," Eskin said. "I just couldn't get used to them and not seeing anyone." A problem with background music also scared him off stage for a while, but he tried again. Now Eskin has been performing Diamond hits for 14 years, setting out on his own for the past eight. He knows 35 Diamond songs, a repertoire he mixes up during his roughly 30 shows a year. "That's almost as much as I want to do," Eskin said. "If it becomes every week, it becomes more like work. This way, it's fresh to me when I do it and I can display the enthusiasm. I don't know how professionals can go out every night for 200 nights to do the same set, the same songs . . . but every time I see him, he seems as fresh and vibrant as ever." Eskin has been a fan of Diamond's music since college and has seen at least half a dozen of his concerts. "Neil Diamond is a very active performer," Eskin said. "He's all over the stage. He plays up to others, so I, sort of, do the same thing." He's also run into certain challenges. At a Fenway Park concert that Eskin attended, Diamond did no less than three performances of "Sweet Caroline." When Eskin performed in Hudson recently, he had to do the same thing. "It's not one of my favorite songs, but the people like it," Eskin said. "When you're there to entertain, you do what they want. And then I get into it." "He really is an incredible performer," Eskin added. "It's a lot of live up to. As long as people keep encouraging me, I'll keep doing it. He's still doing it, and he's got many years on me."
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