For as long as I’ve been a Barry Manilow fan, there has been a stigma attached to the pop star. My mother used to warn me against mentioning my love for Manilow in public, expressing the understandable fear that people might mock a 13-year-old boy who listens to “Copacabana.” But as I stood in the Verizon Center Wednesday night, surrounded by hundreds of middle-aged woman chanting Manilow’s name, I knew that for the next two hours, there was nothing to be ashamed of.
David Koz, smooth jazz saxophonist, opened for Manilow. Koz’s performance was chaotic and passionate, and the highlight was undeniably his saxophone rendition of “Let it Go,” the Oscar-winning song from 2013’s Frozen. Still, as talented as Mr. Koz was, that didn’t stop an impatient crowd from shouting, “Where’s Barry!”
When Manilow finally did burst onto the stage, singing his song “It’s a Miracle,” the crowd erupted in delight. Barry Manilow spent the rest of the night alternating between his heavy-hitters like “Mandy,” “Weekend in New England,” and more obscure songs from his 2001 album, Here at the Mayflower.
As for the quality of his singing? The unfortunate reality is that Barry Manilow’s voice is not what it used to be. At 71 years old, Manilow is having a much harder time belting out his hits. His voice was noticeably rough, and I could hear him straining to hit those higher notes. At times, I could barely even hear the singer’s voice over the music.
But the strange thing is, it didn’t detract all that much from his performance. Barry Manilow’s voice is certainly not what it was forty years ago, but the singer’s spirit and enthusiasm is still very much intact. At one point, Manilow grabbed one of the front row spectators and proceeded to dance with her. He topped this later on when he climbed on top of his piano and started dancing there as well.
The man has an infectious energy. Throughout the night, Manilow exchanged light-hearted banter between songs, made jokes at his own expense, and most importantly, out right demanded audience participation. When it came time for him to sing “Can’t Smile Without You,” Manilow asked the entire crowd to stand up and sing along—and we all obliged.
These little flourishes may seem irrelevant to a musical performance, but they helped create this wonderful, whimsical atmosphere. It didn’t feel like I was attending a Barry Manilow concert; it felt like I had wandered into a party and Barry Manilow just happened to be in the center of the dance floor.
Barry Manilow’s tour ends in June, and it is supposed to be the last tour of his career. If you’re Barry Manilow fan, I really encourage you to attend his future performances if at all possible. I guarantee you won’t be disappointed.