As part of my long list of bands and artists I really should see Barry Manilow has been on the list for way too long. I’ve seen many greats and some legends so how has Barry slipped by? Chance or timing has never happened to make it possible, but tonight that is all about to change.
Barry conjures up memories of Radio Two in the mornings and gentler times in this reviewers life. While I’ve been busily watching every indie band going, Barry has crafted album after album and clocked up in excess of 80 million records sold. His shows sellout, he has one of the most loyal bases of support known to any artist and now I’m standing amongst some of them.
The evening starts with special guests Collabro, or as they are also described “Britains Got Talent Winners, Collabro”. Four guys, suited and singing musical theatre songs, with a few moves on the more upbeat numbers. Opening with the theme to Grease and including songs from Wicked and a Jersey Boys Medley from soon to be released album “Road To The Royal Albert Hall”, the short slot breezed through. I love to see a guest cover one of main performers songs in this situation, it can be a brave move and they took that step, covering One Voice and they shone in doing so.
Absolutely on time the words Manilow and Birmingham appear on the back screen, the stage is curtained creating a theatre feel in an arena, it sets an intimacy, even with large projection screens either side of the stage. Barry arrives and greets everyone from the stage, your American friend is here and the warmth and star quality are palpable.
Within minutes I realise I’m now in Barry’s world. Somehow I fell down the rabbit hole without realising it and I’m part of a totally different world where live music concerts I attend are concerned. The set opener It’s a Miracle is delivered perfectly with slick backing singers and full band. The template for the evening is set, quality all the way.
When a performer is mature you sometimes wonder and wait on those first notes. Vocally Barry is great, I immediately relax, the voice and tone is unmistakable. He moves far better than I was lead to expect, ably covering the stage and getting a few of his own style steps in too. Later in the show when he talks about age being just a number he is right, the minute his eyes sparkled as he sang, any thought of age was gone.
Dapper in black with the first of an array of glimmering jackets, we were then lead through a well balanced show of ballads and hits including Bermuda Triangle, Stay, Even Now, an up-tempo Could it be Magic and the tremendous fun of a totally audience inclusive sing-a-long for Can’t Smile Without You.
The camera team for the screen projections capture Barry at his best, his self depreciating humour is a delight. The audience whooping and cheering on the anticipation of certain lyrics in big romantic numbers is gentle fun and he plays his part by not quite laughing, beautifully.
On the way in tonight, I’d been given 3D glasses and a glow stick. The glasses helped with a whistle stop tour of New York with Barry as the guide dressed as per the album cover for This is My Town (from last years This is My Town: Songs of New York album). Visual imagery was also well interplayed with Mandy showcasing Barry in 1975 on the back projection before switching the audience attention back to Barry at the piano. Personally, I wanted to hear I Made It Through the Rain, that sensitive opening section was sublime and the vocal power, soared.
I Write the Songs, Copacabana and a reprise of It’s a Miracle concluded a great evening. Barry is a classic showman, a true professional on every level. Immersed in one of the happiest atmospheres I’ve felt created by a performer, this was not just a show more an uplifting experience.
Reviewer: Stephanie Colledge