Something which few people know about me is that I am a bit of a ‘Fanilow’ – a fan of Barry Manilow. It’s not something I keep a secret (even though I’m aware being a fan is not seen as ‘cool’), it’s simply something that very rarely comes up in conversation, so barely gets mentioned.
People know me for my love of comics, super heroes, cartoons, toys, horror and pretty much anything nostalgia-inducing from the ’80s and ’90s, but they don’t know that I’m partial to the odd tune from Manilow. I wouldn’t call myself a hardcore fanatic, but I enjoy his music and think he’s a great entertainer.
Last night I was fortunate enough to see Barry Manilow at the Manchester Arena, as part of his UK tour. This tour follows on from his farewell tour which took place a few years ago, and sees Barry run through all his hits included Mandy, Could It Be Magic, Copacabana, Can’t Smile Without You and so on.
I didn’t go to the concert alone, I dragged along my husband who is younger than me and has barely any idea who Barry Manilow is. He’s a good egg and said he was happy to go, even though I’m sure it bewildered him a little.
The concert started at 7:30pm with the musical theatre group, Collabro providing the warm-up act. The group ran through a number of well known tracks, including Defying Gravity from Wicked and Never Enough from The Greatest Showman and seemed to hit the spot for the target audience.
Collabro were on stage for around half-an-hour, followed by a break of another half-an-hour before Barry Manilow arrived on stage at 8:30pm. From here on out, Manilow remained on stage until the concert’s end at 10pm.
So, was the show any good?
Those who have previously seen the singer in concert will be more than familiar with his show, as it is effectively a greatest hits tour (with a nod to a new album) and is similar to past tours. In fact, it reminded me of a Manilow concert I attended around 20 years ago – yes, I’ve liked Barry Manilow for quite sometime.
Personally, keeping things on familiar ground worked very well for me as it meant I was in well-worn territory and could sing along with his more famous tracks without any real effort, including the audience rousing, One Voice. That song in particular seemed to really stir something up within the audience, especially in these often quite divided times, and brought everyone together.
The only part of the concert that didn’t really work for me (and perhaps for the audience) was a sequence in which we were asked to don 3D glasses for a five-minute sequence involving a ‘flight through New York’. The sequence was cheesy enough to be in keeping with the show, but it felt like an unnecessary inclusion.
Other than that the rest of the show was exactly as I expected – a couple of hours of fun, harmless, carefree entertainment. Basically, when you go to a Barry Manilow concert you know what you’re going to get and that works perfectly for me.
At the age of 75, Barry Manilow knows his audience – he knows the target range; he knows what they want to hear; and he knows how to deliver that. By playing to those strengths, as well as his natural born talent for entertaining, he ensures a good time as guarantee.
For those not familiar with Manilow, or his concerts, there is the feeling that it’s all a bit dated – and of course, it is. But that’s because the singer is not looking to reinvent the wheel, instead he’s simply saying, ‘this is the kind of music and musical style I do, I’m happy to play it if you are happy to listen’.
At the end of the concert, I asked my husband what he thought of the show, knowing full well he was one of the youngest members of the audience – he’s 24, I’m 36 and the average age of the audience was around 50-60+. He said that he enjoyed it for what it was, just a bit of fun for those who like Manilow.
It’s often said that they don’t make ’em like they used to and in the case of Barry Manilow, it’s true! Manilow is a showman and someone from an age where lyrics, melodies and interacting with the audience really matter – and what’s not to like about that?
His style of entertaining is dying out and while I won’t lament this, as times change and people like different things, I will say that it’s something that should be enjoyed while it can. If you live in the UK and you want to see him, you still have time.
Barry Manilow arrives in Birmingham tomorrow, before finishing off his UK tour with a few dates in London. From there he’s back off to Las Vegas until next time.