Put a ring on it

John O’Regan’s solo act, Diamond Rings, has the both flash and the synth-pop skill.

John ORegan (Diamond Rings), is a girls and boys best friend!

Photo courtesy Norman Wong

John O’Regan (Diamond Rings), is a girl’s and boy’s best friend!

by Sally Hedberg

WHAT:Diamond Rings with Robyn and Natalia Kills

WHEN: Sunday, Feb. 13

WHERE:First Avenue, 701 First Ave. N

COST: $25

Rock âÄònâÄô roll truth: Glitter makes everything better. Bowie, Roxy Music, T.Rex âÄî whatâÄôs not to love about a little glamour in music? John OâÄôRegan has taken note over the past couple of years, launching into a self-imposed metamorphosis of the musical and physical kind.

The 25-year-old, Toronto-based musician has radically reshaped his image from the edgy vocalist of dance-punk group, the DâÄôUrbervilles, into the gender-bending glam-rocker that is his solo project, Diamond Rings. Come Sunday, the sparkly synth-master will channel Ziggy Stardust aalongside Swedish pop queen Robyn.

The idea of Diamond Rings was conceived in a hospital bed. In 2008, OâÄôRegan was diagnosed with CrohnâÄôs disease, precipitating an extended hospital stay that, however unpleasant, resulted in the inception of this new musical project.

âÄúWithout having an outlet I would have gone crazy,âÄù OâÄôRegan said. âÄúFortunately I didnâÄôt. I had a guitar with me and then when I was better I had a bunch of new songs that I really liked.âÄù

Despite the inevitable Bowie assumptions, Diamond Rings is actually more influenced by artists like Gordon Lightfoot and Leonard Cohen

âÄúAs a songwriter and a lyricist IâÄôm really enamored with the folk tradition and the idea of trying to tell a story and connect with people through words,âÄù OâÄôRegan said.

Regardless of the means, it all culminated in the release of his debut LP, âÄúSpecial Affections.âÄù

âÄúSpecial AffectionsâÄù is characterized by a purring, Ian Curtis-esque baritone, driving synth beats, catchy hooks and glitter âÄî lots of glitter.

ItâÄôs a very personal record in the sense that it tracks the story of OâÄôReganâÄôs move to a big city and his grappling with the challenges of his new environment. Yet, struggles of this nature are omnipresent, adding a strong sense of universality to the record, a depth not always evident in pop music.

âÄúI think that the idea of wanting to belong, wanting to be accepted, most importantly, wanting to be who you are, is a powerful concept that people identify with,âÄù he said.

To convey his wisdom, OâÄôRegan has fashioned an outlandish look (neon tights, Technicolor face makeup and futuristic hair) thatâÄôs a far cry from the close connections he seeks with his audience.

âÄúIt represents my desire to take risks and to experiment,âÄù OâÄôRegan said. âÄúI wanna do something really overt and over-the-top because I want to show people that thatâÄôs possible. You donâÄôt need a huge tour bus and billions of dollars to be fabulous. You can be real.âÄù

Maybe so, but if the young artist is already selling out Radio City Music Hall and touring with an act as distinguished as Robyn, that tour bus may be a closer reality than he thinks.