This past week my adorable, sentimental hubby asked me if I wanted to go to a Barry Manilow concert at the Fox Theater. I loved Barry’s music as a young man back in the day, but, for some unknown and utterly ridiculous reason I had some weird preconceived notion about what his concerts out in Vegas were like: a once famous artist performing to a handful of tipsy old women with blue hair. Vegas seemed to me to be the place where has-been artists went to dry up and blow away. Who knows where I got this idea in my head.
Anyway, I could sense that he wanted to go; so, sure, I was willing to go if he wanted to attend. He did. We went last night. Best decision ever!
We started the evening meeting up at South City Kitchen in Midtown for dinner. We both arrived and got inside just before the horrible weather started. We finished just after the torrential rains stopped. The restaurant hasn’t changed since the last time I ate there some 15 years ago or so. Best crab cakes anywhere.
The restaurant next door, years ago, was Vicks, I believe. It has been other things in the subsequent years. Sadly, the last time I ate there, decades ago, marked the end of a dear childhood friendship. Strangest (and such a sad) thing in the world.
After dinner we were off to the concert. God, I love the Fox Theater. To think developers once wanted to tear it down! We had great seats: second row in the balcony.
The show started about 10 minutes late, perhaps because the weather delayed some people from getting downtown in a timely manner. And what a show it was!
Barry Manilow is 74 years old. My god that’s just unbelievable! Obviously the guy has had work done, but he doesn’t look overly-done. He looks astonishingly good for a 74 year old man. He’s still crazy thin, and he throws himself into the show. In fact, I’d say he put on one hell of a show.
Over the past 12 months I’ve seen Barbra Streisand and Olivia Newton John. They gave really good concerts. But Barry Manilow outdid them at every turn. He had 12 musicians on stage with him. He had a huge screen up high behind him that typically showed a live feed of his face, framed by appropriately subdued but interesting graphic elements, as he performed.
However, on several numbers, the screen went crazy with graphics or video footage related to what he was performing: at one point, for example, a video of a Judy Garland performance, with whom he sang a duet. It was very well done. Most concert goers were given a glow stick for the concert, and the nearly-packed house waved them enthusiastically all night long. And at the climax of his final piece Barry unexpectedly blasted thousands of confetti streamers from high above the stage into the audience. As I mentioned, we were seated up in the balcony, and the streamers reached, even passed us.
Other than smaller screens, Babs and Olivia did nothing like this in their concerts. Barry was putting it out there for his audience. He was noticeably more animated and more personable, welcoming the audience into his performance. He walked the length of the stage. (Babs and Olivia pretty much stayed in one place their entire concerts.) He conducted and cut off the orchestra for precision performances. He even had a bouncing smiley face pounce on the displayed lyrics of one of his songs (Can’t Smile without You) and asked the audience to sing along, which everyone gleefully did.
This was a spectacular evening of entertainment from a great performer to an adoring audience. At one point in the concert (after his performance of Even Now) I thought the thrilled audience wasn’t going to let him continue. Everyone continued thunderous applause and screaming and cheering for over 5 minutes. Appreciatively, he just let it go on. This audience loved Barry Manilow!
Granted, the audience was older. And I find this sad, frankly. His music is much too good to be lost to the younger generations! His lyrics are fun and positive, of a time regrettably now lost to the greed and selfishness of the current national mood.
So many great, great songs, only 2 of which I did not know, and I knew all of the others very well. Damn, he put a lot of great music out there over the years!
As mentioned, Barry is now 74 years old, and, naturally his voice isn’t what it was when he was a young heartthrob. But he cleverly worked to disguise this fact. The concert was loud–astonishingly loud. The orchestra hid his voice a bit most of the time. Personally, I think the whole thing could have been dialed back a good bit, but most audiences think louder is better. Again, his voice has stood the test of time better than Babs or Olivia, whose vocals were at times noticeably weak.
Barry mentioned that the music of today lacks melody, a fact I’ve lamented for decades now. While his lyrics are positive and upbeat, his ballads are a sensation. But his music also has something else that today’s music lacks. His music has carefully crafted structure that, through ingenious and clever key modulations, builds, and builds, and builds to a stunning over-the-top climax. Barry Manilow knows how to wow.
And Barry is a careful business man. He’s always been a private man in his personal life, but, even though he never mentioned it last night, I was delighted to see that he now wears a wedding band1. I only hope for his happiness.
When I told my sister (I call her the Sistoid Unit, Stoid for short.) I was going to the concert, she asked me to bring her an article of his clothes as a souvenir. Apparently he is one of her few heartthrobs! All I was able to get for her was our streamers and glow sticks.
I feel profound sadness for children, like my sister and I, who are raised in a religious cult (American conservative fundamentalism) that will aggressively deny their children the happiness of such “wicked” rock music as Barry Manilow. Despite what they taught us as children, I didn’t see a Fox Theater filled with crack heads and heroine addicts with their legions of illegitimate children. Deny children such wonderful musical joy but endorse a misogynist, lying, greedy thug to the presidency. Yep. Makes total sense to me.
We had a crazy delightful evening. I’m so glad we decided to go. It was an outstanding night of entertainment. I highly recommend attending his concert. (Here’s the concert tour schedule. Iain, he’s coming to London!) I’m not sure, but this might well be his last tour. You will thrill to his performance; after all, he writes the songs that make the whole world sing!
<a href="http://www.cbsnews.com/news/barry-manilow-opens-up-on-marriage-to-garry-kief/" target="_blank" rel="noopener">He and his husband</a> have now been together for over 40 years! Good for them! ↩