Just like with Clay Aiken, here's my statement of full disclosure: I've been a Barry Manilow fan for more than a dozen years.
I own every CD he's ever made, save one ("Here Comes the Night"); I have all his DVDs; and heading into Monday, I'd seen Barry in concert nine times — all the way up and down the East Coast from Connecticut from to Tampa, Fla.
Among my first nine shows, I've seen the "Greatest Hits" tour, Barry's "Ultimate Manilow" tour, Barry's 2000 Christmas show at Foxwoods, his "One Last Time" stop in the very same Meadowlands. I even saw his first "An Evening of Music and Passion" one-night-only show in Atlantic City back last October.
So don't come here to "Sean's Space" expecting an unbiased, journalistic review: I am a Barry Manilow, true and through. (But don't dare call me a "Fan-ilow!")
With that said, I can honestly say that Monday's "An Evening of Music and Passion" at the Izod Center ranks right up there with the best Barry I've ever seen!
There are a few reasons this show was different for me (my next post will explain the most surprising, if not biggest, one!) was because it might have been the most complete show of his I've ever seen.
Sure, I've seen the same opening for maybe the last 3 or 4 shows (not including A.C., when he was rolled out in a wheelchair following his surgery, only to bounce out grasping his recently won Emmy Award) and I know which songs lead into which others. Still, this show still was one of Barry's best.
Let me explain: Of course, he did all the hits we all love ("Mandy," "Weekend in New England," "I Write the Songs," et al) and combined tunes from his latest CDs ("Greatest Songs of the Fifties," "Greatest Songs of the Sixties" and most recently, "Greatest Songs of the Seventies") but he also threw in songs I hadn't seen him do in a long time.
There was this tribute (above) to the 1940s with a medley of "Singin' with the Big Bands" songs. I don't think I've seen/heard this act since my first Barry show (which was also his last show in Poughkeepsie) back in '95.
Two weeks before Christmas Eve, Barry even included the Joni Mitchell holiday tune "River" as a special yuletide treat.
Then, he added this medley of '60s songs, led in by "Yesterday," the great Beatles' hit, which made my fav Fab Four fan happy. (It was my GF's first trip to the Meadowlands, let alone a Barry show!).
Click here for "Yesterday" and more of the '60s medley
Most importantly for me, though, was seeing Barry still connect with his fans — all of us who have supported him all theses years, despite what ridicule we might incur from friends, co-workers or loved ones.
Particularly with him being in Las Veags now, sometimes playing twice a night, you might think he'd be tired, if not jaded — like this is just a job for him. Let's face it: He really has been from Boston to Denver, and everywhere in between! This is just another gig for him, right? Just another big paycheck?
You have to watch him sing — look at the emotion on his face — and see how into the music he gets, making you think Mandy really just left him, this some 33 years after that song was released. Watching him sing, you really believe he just left someone in New England, not knowing when he'll see her again. (This, btw, is what I was trying to explain to my GF, even directing her to the big video screen so she could see the emotion in his face.)
In short, Barry satisfied everyone in the building! I think he even made a new fan, sitting next to me ... though she says she just had a good time, she's not quite a fan yet. (Right, Hun!)
Everyone sung along. We all clapped and danced, some of us more than others! (I fully admit that.) And capping the night, Barry finished the show on stage alone, performing "Old Friends" and "Forever and a Day," both of which I own on CD, but had never seen live.
Again, for the 10th time, I can easily say:
Barry is the Man(ilow)!