Sunday, June 8, 2008

Manilow brings Sin City to T.O.Live Review: Barry Manilow in T.O.


TORONTO - Manilow mania hit the Air Canada Centre on Saturday night as Barry Manilow brought his Sin City show - An Evening Of Music And Passion - to Toronto for the first time since he began his regular gig of the same name at the Las Vegas Hilton three years ago after releasing three consecutive hit albums of '50s, '60s and '70s covers.

"I'm Celine Dion," he joked about the Quebec songbird who recently wrapped up her five-year stint at Ceasars Palace.

"Looks like we made it!" added Manilow, 64, whose perma-tan, streaked, spikey blond hair and sharp black suit accented by sequined black tie and fuschia pocket puff and matching lining screamed Vegas showman.

"It's been a long time. (July 4, 1997, at Kingswood as a fan reminded him). We've got music, you've got the passion!" he said addressing the "Fan-ilows" who screamed and waved green glow sticks.

The Brooklyn-born Manilow, whose began as jingle writer, theatre composer and piano player for hire in the '60s before striking big in the '70s with his first No. 1 hit Mandy, is nothing if not audience friendly.

And he's still in strong voice.

A mere 15-minutes into his 95-minute show, he took a tiny lift down to the floor to pluck a female out of the front row and slow dance with her on stage during Ready To Take A Chance Again.

"That was romantic," he said afterwards. "That's what's know as foreplay. This is the main course," he said when his piano magically appeared on stage and he launched into When When I Hold You Again? (OH MY GOD! He got the title of my favorite song wrong - the correct title is Weekend in New England) on a platform that raised him up and down again as the song reached its climax.

He also made sure to make eye contact and deployed dramatic arm gestures during such songs as It's A Miracle, Daybreak, the American Bandstand Theme and told personal stories like the one about his grandfather taking him across the bridge from Brooklyn to Times Square to a "record your own voice booth" during I Made It Through The Rain.

He even played a snippet of that recording and showed a picture of his grandfather who was the first to stand up when he played Carnagie Hall, just down the street from that booth, prompting the entire audience that night to give him a standing ovation.

Aiding Manilow in his quest to entertain was a 10-piece band including four singers-dancers and an orchestra seated behind him on a tiered stage dominated by a lit-up backdrop that showed off video, vintage pictures and footage.

Say what you will about the schmaltz-factor that such ballads as Even Now, Somewhere Down The Road, Old Friends, Forever And A Day evoke, but Manilow has written some major heavy hitters over the last four decades and apparently had famous fans ranging from Frank Sinatra to Bob Dylan.

Other highlights on Saturday night included Could It Be Magic, which he explained what a rip-off of a Chopin prelude; Mandy, which was preceded by a 1975 clip of him performing it on The Midnight Special and segued to him rising from beneath the floor behind a white piano in a white blazer; and I Write The Songs that prompted the first real crowd singalong followed by Copacobana complete with his singer-dancers dressed as Vegas showgirls and a confetti and streamer explosion.

Less successful was his tribute to the '60s - he's currently working on a '80s covers album - that saw him sitting on a stool on an orange shag carpet beside a lava lamp going through his old record collection and smoking a "funny cigarette," before breaking into a medley that included You're Just Too Good To Be True (correct song title is Can't Take My Eyes Off You), Where Did Our Love Go, and What The World Needs Now.

Bloggers Note: I guess I can forgive a civilian (our term for a non-Manilow fan) for his slip on Weekend in New England. The title of the song is nowhere in the song, so he took the words that you hear the most, but just know that primal scream that you heard earlier was me seeing the title of my favorite Manilow song in the whole world being called the wrong thing.