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DVD Review: MANILOW: Music and Passion Live From Las Vegas

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Written by Mil Peliculas

I didn’t really warm up to Barry Manilow until about five years ago; sure I grew up in the ’70s and his music, along with Neil Diamond and many others, served as a background score for my childhood, but it was always considered to be a bit on the cheesy side. It’s only now in my adult years that I can appreciate the masterful melodies and lyrics of both of these cats.

I recently got a chance to view Barry Manilow’s latest DVD release MANILOW: Music and Passion Live From Las Vegas. Well, I have to say, the cheese factor was in full effect. The DVD itself really plays like an infomercial advertising the Vegas show, which is rife with Vegas glitz — medleys, film clips — Barry does a duet with his younger self at one point, which unfortunately serves to remind us just how long ago those days were.

He’s obviously aging, the voice is not quite what it was; of course, the man can’t help that, but he does not seem to be embracing it like others have – Mick Jagger comes to mind, Bob Dylan perhaps. Shot mostly with a vanity-cam in diffuse lighting, you can see that the surgery has left a mark. But it’s still Barry Friggin Manilow, and the man deserves his props for creating some very beautiful and classic songs that I still love to listen to, and still enjoyed as the show unfolded.

The Vegas show itself is really a hodge-podge of yesteryear, sure to please the hardcore fans, I might get out there one day, you never know, but there is an underlying melancholy to the whole thing. If Barry Manilow has come out with any decent new music, it has surely escaped my notice, in contrast, the latest Neil Diamond release knocked my socks off.

I put less blame on the man himself than the producers and designers of the DVD and the style of the DVD production — what they chose as additional footage, backstage stuff, ecstatic audience members who are obviously rehearsed — none of which was too terribly interesting. There was one genuine moment where his voice gave out during a show, and he talks about how he and the audience dealt with it, but that aside, I would much prefer to see this extremely talented artist in the hands of a Rick Rubin (producer of Neil Diamond’s last album) for instance, because I am sure there is still some oil to be struck there. I just did not see much of it on this particular DVD.

Overall, I’d have to say the show looks like a nice stroll down memory lane, Vegas-style, and at least he’s still performing at a pretty high level. Those Vegas shows are pretty grueling, not sure if I’d be able to do it. So… Mr. Rubin, if you are listening: next stop, Barry Manilow.

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About Gordon S. Miller

Gordon S. Miller is the artist formerly known as El Bicho, the nom de plume he used when he first began reviewing movies online for The Masked Movie Snobs in 2003. Before the year was out, he became that site's publisher. Over the years, he has also contributed to a number of other sites as a writer and editor, such as FilmRadar, Film School Rejects, High Def Digest, and Blogcritics. He is the Publisher of Cinema Sentries. Some of his random thoughts can be found at twitter.com/ElBicho_CS
  • Evan

    i like Barry Manilow thats the best music to listen to

  • Anthony Bertorelli

    As a long time fan of Barry Manilow, I too am in agreement with your assessment of the “Music & Passion DVD.” After the brilliant “Here at the Mayflower” (2001), the first Barry Manilow disc in over ten years to contain original material, it is unfortunate that Barry has returned to making albums of recycled material.

  • Kenny G says the last two commentors are correct in their thinking that any comparison to Kenny G and the aforementioned artists is absurd. Kenny G is a Grammy-winner, a Guniess World record holder, and a scratch golfer. In 2003, the RIAA named Kenny G the 25th-highest selling artist in America.

    The sexuality of Barry and Liberace has not been made clear, but Kenny G is a virile stud of a man. Kenny G has tasted the fruits of many woman, earning him the nickname “White Chamberlin”, which is why so many are jealous and resort to derision. Kenny G was taught the art of making love by the master, Barry White.

    Kenny G laughs at Neil Diamond for many reasons. He is a notorious poor tipper and has an irrational fear of birds.

  • I find Solitary Man’s comments that a comparison between Neil Diamond and Barry Manilow is absurd to be absurd. And the comparison of Barry Friggin Manilow to Kenny G. and Liberace even more absurd. Rick Rubin does not necessarily specialize in turning nonrockers into rockers…but he does specialize in bringing out the best in an artist…it’s just a little wishful thinking…run with it. But I stand in Solidarity with Solitary Man that Neil Diamond is DA MAN.

  • Solitary Man

    I find your comparison between Neil Diamond and barry Manilow absurd.Rick Rubin is a FAN of Neil Diamond.He said in interviews that he always thought that Neil Diamond is an underrated ROCK N ROLL songwriter.Barry Manilow is on the other hand the anti-rock n roll.Rubin could never turn Libarace/Kenny G into Dylan/Elvis.The thought of Barry Manilow doing a 12 Songs type album is laughably absurd.

    Barry seems happy being “Mr Schmaltz” while Neil was never comfortable at it.Barry seems happy being “The Most Successfull Adult Contemporary Performer of All Time” while Neil wants to get into the rock n roll hall of fame for being a part of the rock n roll history from the Brill Building to the Singer Songwriter revolution.There is such a huge difference between the two.Rick Rubin could never turn such a non-rock guy into rock n roll.I honestly cant imagine it.Barry with a guitar stripped down singing about death and god and divorce instead of belting out showtunes????

  • Allow me to change the mood.

    My wife and I got married last March in Vegas. We stayed at the hotel where Manilow is currently playing. Little did we know that this would be a Barry Manilow-driven audio torture chamber for a full week.

    Wherever we went in the hotel, whether it be in the parking garage, the buffet, the betting rooms, the elevators or by the pool, Manilow’s music interrupted whatever was on the loud speaker every three minutes.

    We are left with this memory for the rest of our lives. If we were aging women from my old neighborhood in Philadelphia, we would remember it fondly. Not being members of that focus group, we suffer. Our friends now find it funny to send us Manilow vinyl that they find in thrift shops for a dollar and send it to us as a memento.

    I don’t begrudge Manilow making millions of dollars for his middle-of-the-road catalog, and musically, maybe he has something. Personally, if I want to listen to perfectly arranged music, I’ll go Carpenters, Mamas & Papas, middle period Beach Boys or David Ackles. I leave Manilow to aging denizens of Overbrook Park in Philadelphia, with their caked-on makeup, big round hairdos, nasal voices and comps for the nickel slots. I happily shun him back to his lair in the late ’70’s, where only men’s magazine photographic subjects of the month would dare admit that they loved his songs.

  • Mary- St. Louis

    If I didn’t agree with your review, the fact that you did write it tells me “He’ Still Got It”
    Also, as a fan since “Mandy” was introduced,I have never had to rehearse as an audience member. It comes naturally when I am confronted with his many talents the he shares with his audience and his sincerity and those qualities are there for all audiences, not just his fans. He is a Treasure that is still being discovered, all these years later.

  • I’ve never seen “BARRY FRIGGIN MANILOW” in any review before, and it did my heart good to do so.

    You are absolutely correct in your analysis of the DVD. Having been in the audience for the shows that were taped for this DVD, and trust me I’m NOT one of the rehearsed people, it was an experience like no other.

    Having said that I go on to say, it is a very slickly packaged merchandising tool that did exactly what it was meant to do.

    But you are absolutely correct…as a LONG TIME FAN, but NOT A FANILOW, turn this man loose with his original material, or some of the more obscure hits, and let’s ROLL. NOW THAT WOULD BE A DVD!!!

  • I’m a diehard Manilow fan, and, I believe for the most part, that your evaluation of the DVD was on the money. Barry is the hardest-working showman around, but to be relegated to singing only his hits is a bit shameful. His last attempt at new music is very good (Here At The Mayflower) and you should give it a listen some time. We diehard fans would love nothing else than some new music, but right now we’ll have to settle for his never-ending cover CDs.