Sunday was Barry Manilow’s 69th birthday, which was evident long before he mentioned it to a crowd of about 5,000 at Starlight Theatre. They serenaded him with “Happy Birthday” and several of the many fans who brought signs to the show expressed birthday greetings. At least one person brought him a gift.
The crowd included many folks who were Manilow’s age and older and many who were half his age and younger. It was also Father’s Day, and throughout the amphitheater families of two and three generations sat and sang along together. Manilow’s gift to them was 90 minutes of songs they’d been listening to for most of their lives.
Backed by a band laden with keyboards and two background singers, he opened with a version of “It’s a Miracle” that bounced to soft disco beat, as it bounded into "Could It Be Magic," then a mashup of “Somewhere in the Night” and “Looks Like We Made It.”
Last year, Manilow ended a seven-year run at two venues in Las Vegas and he is back on the road for a long series of weekend shows. He may be away from the Vegas lights, but he hasn’t taken the Vegas glitz out of his show. He busted a few low-key dance moves — he is recovering from hip surgery — and he showed off his skills on the piano and keyboards.
He is a smooth, slick showman, one not above some self-effacing humor. When the video screen behind him showed the “Even Now” album cover, which features the Manhattan skyline, he wisecracked: “My nose looks like one of the buildings.”
That video screen broadcast lots of images from way back, including Manilow’s first appearance on “American Bandstand” and, before he sang “Mandy,” an appearance on “The Midnight Special,” in which he was introduced by Clive Davis and Mac Davis. Manilow has never been an elite vocalist, but for the most part he has managed to preserve and maintain the voice he’s always had. After he hit a long high note to close “Even Now,” the crowd gave him a loud long ovation.
He dropped in some of his lesser-known songs, such as “Brooklyn Blues,” which he prefaced with a verse from “Kansas City,” and “I Am Your Child,” which he performed solo, at the keyboards.
Manilow also performed two songs from his tributes-to-the-decades albums: “He Ain’t Heavy, He’s My Brother” and “Can’t Take My Eyes Off You.” But the songs that made the crowd sing and wave their orange glow sticks and the couples dance at their seats and in the aisles were the sweeping ballads, like “Even Now,” “Weekend in New England,” “Trying to Get the Feeling Again” and, his signature tune, “Mandy.”
He closed with a Vegas version of “Copacabana (At the Copa),” then one of his most beloved songs (and one he didn’t write), “I Write the Songs,” which ignited more singing and swaying. After a reprise of “It’s a Miracle,” a blizzard of confetti and streamers was unleashed from the stage and rained on the crowd in the front sections.
Manilow then brought the night to a slow, quiet close with an a cappella rendition of “One Voice,” a song about the power of music and a lone voice. It was an apt ending for a guy whose long career has provided many happy returns.