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 a while, you get something for free. My husband occasionally gets emails from his department administrator offering tickets for various sporting events to the first person who replies to the message. I wouldn’t say that it completely offsets the
suffering and agony joys and frustrations challenges of his job, 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 my hero 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? Read on 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, although I can remember what I wore to every major concert, graduation, or other significant event in my life, 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 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!”)
- 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.
I snickered a little bit throughout the opening act, a cover band out of Vegas called Sunset Strip that featured scantily-clad vocalist/dancers in provocative dance routines. Okay, 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!
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!
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 came 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 canceled 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!
I 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,” and 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.
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 my husband — before the concert, the only Manilow song he could name was “Copacabana,” but during the show 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…
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 lowered 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.
[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! ]
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 “Daybreak” every morning from now on!