Thursday night transported me back to my childhood with my mom in tow. The iconoclastic Barry Manilow graced Wolf Trap the second time in his career. His first hit Mandy was released the year I was born. He sounded just as wonderful as he did in the 1970’s. I knew most of his songs, since my mom listened to him while I was a child. I think she was surprised I knew a lot of the songs.
In 1978, five of his albums were on the best-selling charts simultaneously, a feat equalled only by Frank Sinatra, Michael Jackson, Bruce Springsteen and Johnny Mathis. He has recorded a string of Billboard hit singles and multi-platinum albums that have resulted in his being named Radio & Records‘ number one Adult Contemporary artist and winning three straight American Music Awards for Favorite Pop/Rock Male Artist. Between 1974 – 1983 Manilow had three number one singles and 25 that reached the top 40. He has sold more than 80 million records worldwide.
Manilow has a serene, kind and authentic presence. Despite the packed house of enthusiastic fans, it feels like he is talking directly to you. His chats with the audience between songs were funny, witty and inspiring. He talked about how, if you are not enjoying what you are doing, to quit and do something you enjoy. “I did it, it was scary, but it gave me you,” as he pointed at the audience to loud applause.
Manilow talked about growing up in Brooklyn. He remembered how his grandfather recognized his talent for singing and encouraged it. Manilow played a recording of his grandfather encouraging him to sing Happy Birthday. Manilow recalled growing up in the toughest school in Brookly in the United States. He reminisced about how joining the orchestra brought him to the stage and changed his life.
Manilow created the Manilow Music Project to keep music in schools. He shared that many schools budgets are being slashed which means orchestra classes are being cut out. Manilow said statistics show that children that participate in music tend to do better in school and stay out of trouble. It is a vital need to have music education in schools. The mission statement of the Manilow Music Project highlights the importance of music programs in our schools and donates instruments and materials to school music programs. In 1983, the Manilow Fund for Health & Hope established scholarships in Manilow’s name at various colleges and universities in North America. One of those schools is DC’s own George Washington University.
Manilow is generous in other ways too. To help in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina in 2005, for every US dollar donated by his fans to the American Red Cross through the Manilow Fund for Health and Hope website, Manilow personally matched, and the fund itself also matched, tripling the original donation. The fund delivered $150,000 in less than 48 hours to the American Red Cross, and hoped to raise a grand total of $300,000. On October 27, 2011, Manilow visited Joplin, Missouri, six months after a tornado destroyed one-third of that city, including its only high school. His Manilow Music Project made a contribution of $300,000 to restore the musical program and instruments that were lost.
Manilow’s stage is reminiscent of Las Vegas or maybe I thought that because I stayed at the Las Vegas Hilton where he had a show for several years from 2005-2009. I loved the screen above the stage. During several songs it showed pictures of his older albums and Manilow gave a history of each. During the song Can’t Smile Without You a smiling cartoon Sun twirled around on the screen. Manilow also did a duet with his younger self via video on the screen for one song that was super touching. During the song New York City Rhythm, the screen showed scenes from NYC.
He has two great back up singers who dance with him several times through out the show. Manilow, still going strong at 69, has had hip surgery before so he walks gingerly on stage, but still gives it all he has. His brief hip thrusts throws the mostly female crowd in to a frenzy. He also does a conga line with the back-up singers for Copacabana.
Especially enjoyable is when he brings up 3-4 of his band members to the front of the stage and they race around the piano to play bars from one of his songs. It’s like watching children play.. so joyful.
Usually at Wolf Trap there is not a screen for the lawn viewers to watch the show and they had one for this show, which is really cool. He gave a special shout-out to the people watching from the lawn and called them “lawn people” which is cute and funny!
During the song Bandstand Boogie, the screen above the stage shows Dick Clark while Manilow is playing at the American Bandstand. Manilow gave a beautiful shout-out to Dick Clark as he kissed his fingers in tribute.
He played all of his hits and also his new song 15 Minutes.
Manilow brought the house down and the crowd loved him for his wonderful music, showmanship, kindness, and talent. What an American Treasure!!
It’s a Miracle/Could It Be Magic
Somewhere In The Night/Looks Like We Made It
Can’t Smile Without You
The Old Songs
I Am Your Child
This One’s For You
New York City Rhythm
Weekend in New England
Can’t Take My Eyes Off You (Frankie Valli cover)
All the Time
If Tomorrow Never Comes – Garth Brooks cover
Trying to Get the Feeling
Everything’s Gonna Be All Right
I Made it Through the Rain
I Write the Songs
It’s a Miracle
Manilow’s tour takes him to:
August 18: Verona, NY
August 20-21: Toronto, Canada
September 6: Reading, PA
September 7: Rochester, NY