Thursday, February 19, 2015

Barry Manilow Concert Review

Between computer problems and health problems I probably should have just stayed in bed this morning!!!

Fortunately FH Reader Scott Schultz sent us a review of the Barry Manilow Concert he saw on Valentine's Day ... so we've got something to run for you this morning!

Here goes ...  

Ah, Valentine’s Day ... a perfect night to take your favorite Valentine to a concert.   

This year there were at least three choices in the Chicagoland area: Loverboy and the Romantics at my favorite venue, The Arcada Theatre in St Charles, Fleetwood Mac at the Allstate Arena and, last but not least, Barry Manilow performing his One Last Time tour at the United Center. This is where we spent our evening.   

To be honest I’m not exactly a huge Barry fan but considering he is one of the more popular Pop Icons of the 70’s and 80’s and the tour being “One Last Time” I felt it was worth the trip. While his music never was exactly my ‘cup of tea’ he has several very successful and catchy tunes to his credit (my fav was his rendition of the American Bandstand theme). So we ventured out into the frigid 5-degree Chicago night.   

The UC didn’t appear sold out or at least there were several open seats. We were in the 300 section far above the floor just off the left front corner of the stage. While we had an excellent view of Barry, we couldn’t see the orchestra or the video screen behind him. The auxiliary video screens were ill positioned for the nosebleed seats and never showed the entire stage or the videos on stage. Sound was an initial issue, as well, but that improved after a few songs and was satisfactory overall.   

Saxophone artist Dave Koz whetted our appetite with a 30 minute set before Barry hit the stage. He also accompanied Barry on a few hits along the way. Barry opened with It’s a Miracle followed by Could It Be Magic. and I Can’t Smile Without You. As the night went on he sang a number of lesser known tunes.   

He ventured out into the audience singing Glenn Miller’s signature Moonlight Serenade and danced with a very excited fan. The show continued with Barry playing piano on Even Now. He sang a few songs off his Mayflower album (so titled about an apartment building in Brooklyn where he lived) ... each song was about a different family in the building. Next he did a couple of 4 Seasons numbers: Let’s Hang On and Can’t Take My Eyes Off Of You, both done extremely well.   

His latest album is entitled Dream Duets. He described it as electronically remastered  hits with ‘dead’ artists. He sang along with Whitney Houston on her ‘I Believe’ track. IMO, he could have made a better choice. As we neared the end of the show he talked about his first hit back in 1974, Mandy, and then played an American Bandstand video of its debut (but it was invisible to the cheap seats) and sang it perfectly. Then he related that Mandy opened the gates for several hits. This is where I feel that the actual performance was less than adequate.   

He choose to perform all these hits in a long medley. Included in this medley were: I Write the Songs, Bandstand Theme, Daybreak, Looks Like We Made It, One Voice, I Made it Through the Rain, The Old Songs and others (some I’ve never heard of), closing with a reprise of I Write the Songs.  IMO he should have sung these hits in their entirety and left off others which were not hits (given this is “One Last Time”).    

The final song was, of course, Copacabana. Then he closed with a reprise of It’s a Miracle.   

He was a gracious performer, thanking his fans repeatedly. I felt he was in fine voice. My suggestion if you are attending this show in the near future is to get a seat out front somewhere for a better view of the stage and better sound.   

One more thing ... the audience, which was largely made up of people my age mid to late 50’s, was one of the least enthusiastic audiences I have ever seen. When prompted to ‘sing along’ it was a nearly silent mumble. At the end when a standing ovation was clearly deserved only a relatively small number actually stood, Heck, I’m not a huge fan of his but I respect his contribution to our life’s soundtrack and stood in appreciation.  

Thanks Barry for all your contributions, hopefully you’re not ready to hang it up just yet.  

-- Scott Schultz   

I saw Barry Manilow several times during his initial hey-day ... it was (at that time) the hottest ticket on the planet ... and he always put on a good show.  (We were there at Ravinia when his entire concert was filmed for a television special.  I remember being held back for close to 90 minutes after the concert ended so that they could film "staged" crowd shots and reactions that would be edited into the concert before airing.)  Barry's "Soundstage" performance is one of the best shows ever filmed for that popular PBS series.  

While I never considered myself a "Fanilow", Barry's audience has remained VERY loyal over the years ... incredible to think that his first chart hits are now over 40 years old.  

He hasn't had a "new" hit in quite some time (his last Top 40 Hit came in 1984 with "Read 'em And Weep") and he has spent most of the "in-between" years recording albums of "standards", ''60's love songs" and now "duets with dead people".  (It would appear a good percentage of his time was also spent having cosmetic surgery!)  But he IS the consummate entertainer  ... and I absolutely believe that he truly loves, respects and is devoted to his huge legion of fans who have stuck with him over the years ... and is genuinely grateful for their love and support.  

I know a couple of other people who also went to this special Valentine's Day Concert ... most of the guys I talked to "begrudgingly" so ... but ALL came back impressed by the showmanship that Barry still exudes on stage.  As Scott said, he may not be everybody's cup of tea ... but I've got quite a few Barry Manilow "guilty pleasures" amongst my favorites, too!