Barry. Freakin'. Manilow!!!

I’ve been to see Barry Manilow, Live, in Concert, and I have the glow-stick to prove it!


One of the perks of working for a large organization is that once in awhile, you get something for free. McDoc occasionally gets emails from his department administrator offering tickets for various sporting events to the first resident who replies to the message. I wouldn’t say that it completely offsets the suffering and agony joys and frustrations challenges of being a first-year resident (or spouse of same), but hey, free tickets to a Tigers or Red Wings game are better than a swift kick in the head.

However, when a message flies over the cyber-transom offering tickets to a Significant Music-Historical Event, it’s really something to get excited about — especially for the employee who’s married to your friendly neighborhood Music Nerd!

Imagine my delight, then, when I learned on Friday that McDoc had indeed been the early bird who got the worm, namely: free tickets to Barry Manilow: Music and Passion on Saturday night!

Now, I was expecting the event to be purely a research expedition for me; sure, I used to like some of Barry Manilow’s songs back when I was a little kid, but he was kind of uncool then, and he’s even more uncool now. Right?

Wrong! For Miss Music Nerd, not only is nerd the new cool, but cool is in the eye of the beholder! And anyway, the performance, which was a touring version of his show that’s been playing at the Las Vegas Hilton for nearly three years now, surprised me in more ways than one.

Could it be magic? Click Mr. Readmore to find out!

During the day on Saturday, I tried to imagine what the evening might have in store for us, scanning my memory banks for snippets of Manilow songs from way back when. (It’s scary; I’m just starting to get to the point where I can remember what I wore to every major concert, graduation or other significant event in my life, but I can’t remember what I had for lunch yesterday.) I realized that in many ways, Manilow is a Music Über-Nerd. Even if you disregard the fact that he first made it big in the 70’s, and was therefore subject to the clothing and hairstyle tragedies that were emblematic of the era, he had some nerd credentials all his own:

  • He was a big fan of Big Band, before it was cool (again)
  • He used Chopin’s Prelude in C minor as the intro/outro and harmonic inspiration for his song, “Could it be Magic”
  • He wrote commercial jingles (including “You Deserve a Break Today” for McDonald’s), and performed a medley of them in concert (I remember him describing trying to write a jingle for Hoover vacuum cleaners, but all he could come up with was “Hoover really sucks!” πŸ˜€ )
  • He’s not afraid to use the medley and the dramatic ascending key change as weapons of mass destruction

But I hadn’t been keeping up with him lately, so I didn’t know what he’d been doing or what to expect.

sunsetstrip.jpgMcDoc and I snickered a little bit throughout the opening act, a cover band out of Vegas called Sunset Strip, featuring scantily-clad vocalist/dancers in provocative dance routines. redboots.jpgOkay, yes, I’m jealous — I really dug their red go-go boots — but I tell you, I would not appear in public in an outfit that showed cleavage like theirs did: I’m not talkin’ about the kind you see up front… I’m talkin’ about an effect created by the kind of pants (well, more like bikini bottoms really) yer Mama would NOT have approved of! πŸ˜›

While they presented their rendition of “Free Your Mind” by En Vogue, I couldn’t help but think to myself that there was something truly adorable about watching them sing the lyric “Don’t be so shallow” in those little outfits they were almost wearing! πŸ˜‰

The main reason I mention this opening act, aside from the opportunity to snark a little (and I must admit, they’re good at what they do), is that as they finished up their last number, the headlining dude himself comes out on stage to let the audience know that he had just arrived after a 5-hour drive from Cleveland, arranged at the last minute when his flight was cancelled because of snowy weather. The intermission would be slightly longer than usual because of the delay, he informed us apologetically; “I have to make myself beautiful,” he said. (Not that he looked bad as it was!) “So relax, have a beer, and we’ll be back just as soon as we can!” he added.

I thought that was pretty classy of him.

I wondered, though, if his premature appearance onstage would make his Official Entrance seem anti-climactic. Ha!

harp.jpgI watched with interest as the stage crew broke down the opening act’s gear and set up for the main event. I was thrilled to see a harp appear on one of the risers. It was shaping up to be a pretty full orchestra.

Finally, it was showtime. The glow-sticks were cracked. The anticipation was palpable. The band started playing the intro to “It’s a Miracle,” then the stage risers parted in the middle, like your hair in the 70’s, so the Main Man could emerge in a cloud of dry ice. The crowd went wild, the people seated on the main floor stood up, and something happened to me that I had totally not anticipated…

I got a little verklempt. πŸ™

I had forgotten how thoroughly woven into my childhood these songs were. When he went into his second song, “Daybreak,” I started singing along almost involuntarily — it was just one of many songs I would hear during the evening that I forgot I knew all the words to. It was similar for McDoc — before the concert, the only Manilow song he could name was “Copacabana.” But during the concert, he was singing along like everyone else.

Speaking of “Copacabana,” I have a very distinct memory of dancing around my parents’ living room to that song as a child. I also remember something about some gold chiffon curtains that my mom had taken down to wash, and that I swiped and wrapped around myself to fashion a fabulous Disco Diva costume. So I guess now you know why I’m jealous of those Sunset Strip girls… πŸ˜‰

But back to the concert… in addition to just enjoying it like an 8-year-old wearing gold curtains, I was impressed with both Manilow’s affability and his showmanship. He made jokes — occasionally self-deprecating ones (he also, um, praised his opening act, saying, “Aren’t those girls great? We just took them out of the convent!”), and he knew just when to have the grand piano lifted off the stage on its riser to underline the climax of “Weekend in New England”, and when to have it lower down again. He sang a cover of Glen Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” and, with the aid of another clever little riser at the front of the stage, brought an audience member onstage for a dance during the instrumental interlude.
moonlightriser.jpg moonlightriser2.jpg

[Note: Barry Manilow doesn’t really glow in the dark, and his face hasn’t really been replaced with a halogen headlight. I just need better camera equipment. You can help with that! πŸ™‚ ]

All of these moments were standard pages out of the song-and-dance/stage show playbook, I know, but they were well-executed enough to fool you into believing you were seeing them for the first time.

I’ve been to a lot of great concerts, important concerts, concerts I left feeling privileged and proud to be a musician. But I don’t remember the last time I had such sheer, goofy, unabashed fun at a concert as I had at this one.

All I know is, I’m going to bust out that little cable that connects my iPod to my clock radio so that I can wake up to this song every morning from now on! πŸ˜€

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    Barry. Freakin'. Manilow!!! — 11 Comments

    1. Mrs Grog was a huge fan of Manilow “back in the day”. She’s converting all her old Barry vinyl to digital as we speak.

      I, not being a particularly big fan of the music but an a big fan of great musicians, would like to see him someday. We could have seen him in Vegas earlier this year but I think instead opted for, I dunno, gambling or something.

    2. Glad to find we have something else in common! I’m a closet Barry fan too. At the age of 9 I was totally in love. I had all his albums and knew all the words to the songs. I grew out of the fandom but it amazes me that I DO still know so many of the words! (BTW, I often sing a rendition of Copa called “Mocha-cabanna” to my cat, Mocha.) I recently saw Barry on a PBS special and could not believe he was 64 years old! Honestly, he’s had so much work done he is starting to look androgonous. But I do love that he has a sense of humor about himself and so much of his work. Nobody can really dis da Manilow! Someday I’d love to see a show. Lucky you!! Thanks for the writeup!

    3. Nancy is a big fan! I’ve forwarded the link to your review to her at work, knowing full well she will be begging me for tickets to his show should he turn up in our area!

      Oh well, at least I got out of going to see the Little River Band.


    4. Great review! I almost got my mom tickets to see Barry a few years back. The only tickets left were balcony seats, and my mom said not to bother because she didn’t want to sit there! Anyway, sounds like it was a fun show!

    5. I met Barry Manilow once in the late ’70’s when he was playing at the Anaheim Convention Center . I am embarrased to say I didn’t know who he was at the time but when I heard him on stage I knew some of the songs. I would like to see his concert now.

    6. I, too, have seen Barry Manilow, about 20 years ago. Every single, freakin’ one of his songs is so sing-able. How can you stop yourself? FWIW, “Weekend in New England” gets me verklempt every time. Sniff.

    7. My sister adores Barry Manilow. She went to see him about 2 years ago, maybe. I, to my chagrin here, mocked her slightly. πŸ˜‰ Hey, I mocked her when she went to see Bon Jovi too…

    8. I just attended his Music and Passion concert last night (1-11-08) in St. Paul. It was, of course, wonderful!! But, the last song he did on his encore was a new song to me. Does anyone remember it? Is it new? What was the title? Seems to me it was about friendship. Can anyone help? It’s driving me crazy!!!

    9. Barbara — I’m not sure. When McDoc and I went, we left during “Copacabana” because we knew it was starting to snow heavily. Otherwise we would’ve stayed for the encore!

    10. Barry is ending his 5 year run with the Hilton – his last show, “Ultimate Manilow: The Hits” will be December 30th. He is to perform at another casino in Vegas, but, “The ink is not dry yet”, as to which one it will be. I have had the chance to see him in January and February of this year, and the shows, were FABULOUS!
      He is to have hip surgery again very soon, but that is all the details, on this.