April 17, 2008 - 11:49AM
By COREY STULCE
By COREY STULCE
Bringing a taste of Las Vegas to the Gateway to the West, Barry Manilow will serve as the first concert performer at the new Chaifetz Arena on the campus of Saint Louis University on April 25.
The 10,000-plus seat arena plans to host close to 100 events per year, including SLU basketball and volleyball, as well as private functions and trade shows. Already on the venue's schedule are future concerts like Raw, Rap and Rawhide with rapper Chingy and more on April 26, Raven-Symone on June 10, and Stevie Nicks on June 13.
Manilow replaces the original opening concert for Chaiftez, which was Larry the Cable Guy. Responsible for such hits as "Copacabana," "Weekend in New England" and "Ready to Take a Chance Again," he has been wowing audiences in Vegas' Hilton Hotel over hundreds of performances during the last several years with his "Music and Passion" concerts.
So, how much Vegas can Manilow bring to town with him?"
I think we can do a lot," he told The Telegraph. "We can't bring the ridiculously big stage. In Vegas they build stages the size of football stadiums. We can bring enough. We've got 11 truckloads of crap that we bring all along with us, and when we put it all together it's gorgeous."
There are elevators that bring the piano out of the floor and stairways for ‘Copacabana.' It may not be literally Vegas, but it's beautifully produced."
Manilow said the St. Louis audience would be treated to a full concert, longer than the typical Las Vegas show.
"(In Vegas), they throw us off the stage between 75 and 80 minutes so people can go out and waste their money. In an arena, we can stay as long as we want," he said.
More than 60 albums in, Manilow isn't done recording. Though travel and the Vegas shows are a full-time job, he is currently recording two albums simultaneously, one a follow-up to the "Greatest Songs" series, which have been best-sellers.
For the '70s album, he revisited some of his previous No. 1 hits, which posed a challenge.
"It was impossible. I had no idea it was going to be that difficult. It drove me nuts," he said. "I had made the first half of the album, which was all of the songs I had nothing to do with. I got into ‘Bridge Over Troubled Water,' ‘Sailing,' some beautiful things to sing, arrange and produce. To sit down and redo ‘Mandy' or ‘I Write the Songs,' I just sat down at my keyboard and said, ‘now what do I do? I already did this. How am I supposed to do this differently? Or fresher?' It was a bear."
I barely made the deadline, going back to the studio over and over, with a small band, a big band, with an orchestra. ....... I finally pulled together a rendition of these songs I was happy with."
Fans of Manilow's long string of hits as well as cover versions of other favorites should not be disappointed. While a complete set list is not available, during "Music and Passion," he performs songs like "I Made it Through the Rain," "Can't Smile Without You" and does a '50s-style set with "Bandstand Boogie" and "Unchained Melody," then bounces into the '70s with "Boogie Wonderland" and "Hot Stuff."
Fans or Fanilows of Barry, as they are known, are fervent as are those would rather make fun. He recently appeared as himself on an episode of Fox's "Family Guy," where the beer-swilling guys on the show are all closet Fanilows and end up swooning at a concert."
As long as they come around and say that they love me, I don't mind if they start off hating," Manilow said.
He added that he's always been insulted by snide remarks but also understands why there are a lot of closet Fanilows."
What I sing and what I do is very personal. I'm there," he said.
EDITOR'S NOTE: Read more of the interview with Barry Manilow in the May issue of flaire magazine, available on April 25.Tickets for Barry Manilow's concert at 8 p.m. on Friday, April 25, range from $9.99 for the upper level of the arena to $159 for premium seating. Visit metrotix.com, call (800) 293-5949, (314) 534-1111 or visit the Chaifetz box office to purchase tickets. The arena is located at 1 S. Compton Ave., St. Louis (the northwest corner of Market and Compton). Illinois residents are encouraged to park in the Sigma lot, which offers easy access to Highway 64/40 East. Visit thechaifetzarena.com for more information.