For his final arena tour, Barry Manilow spared little extravagance or kitsch.
His show at the Sprint Center on Thursday was a slick, sparkling display of nostalgia: a 71-year-old pop star lavishly celebrating 40 years in the entertainment business. For about 100 minutes, he showered more than 6,000 rabid ‘fanilows’ with 100 minutes of music and memories
The show opened in gaudy fashion: The enormous red velvet curtain parted, revealing all the trappings that would assist Manilow in his retrospective journey: a small orchestra, three backup singers/dancers and a large video screen that would broadcast an array of images, including footage of Manilow at the launch of his stardom. During “Can’t Smile Without You,” a smiley face bounced over the lyrics, leading the crowd through the first of many loud sing-alongs.
Dressed in a cherry-red smoking jacket over a black shirt, he opened with “It’s A Miracle,” then an uptempo rendition of “Could It Be Magic,” two hits that go back to the mid-1970s. He sustained a brisk pace throughout the night, showing some impressive endurance and agility for a guy his age who had hip surgery three years ago. He played keyboards and piano on several songs, including his stripped-down version of “Even Now”; otherwise he prowled the stage, playing to fans on both sides of the arena.
Several times he joined his dancers in some low-impact choreography. Amid one of two medleys, he danced atop his piano. During his cover of Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade,” he was lowered on a platform at the end of a short catwalk to near floor-level and invited a woman to join him in a slow dance.
He would deliver all of his best-known songs, either in full version or as part of a medley. Most prompted loud ovations, wild waving of glow sticks and hearty sing-alongs, especially “Weekend in New England,” “I Made It Through the Rain” and “Mandy.” Before that one, the video screen showed footage of Clive Davis, on “Midnight Special,” introducing a 30-something Manilow, who then performed the song. Eventually, the live Manilow emerged from offstage, now in a white dinner jacket, and took over the song.
He was joined by Whitney Houston via the video screen for the version of “I Believe in You and Me” on “My Dream Duets,” compilation of duets with legendary singers who have passed on. “I thought about calling it ‘Dead Duets,’” he wisecracked.
He closed with a second medley. This one reduced to long snippets some of his best-known songs: “I Write the Songs,” “American Bandstand,” “This One’s for You,” “Trying to Get the Feeling.” He followed that with a lively version of “Copacabana (At the Copa),” one of his last Top 10 hits. He enlivened that one by enlisting a 24-person choir from the University of Missouri (he didn’t specify whether it was UMKC or Mizzou).
As streamers spilled over the crowd on the floor, he delivered a quick reprise of “It’s a Miracle,” then took a bow and waved goodbye. If it was his last arena show in Kansas City, it was a memorable farewell.
It’s a Miracle; Could It Be Magic; Somewhere in the Night; Can’t Smile Without You; Jump Shout Boogie; Moonlight Serenade; Even Now; medley: Brooklyn Blues, Do You Know Who’s Livin’ Next Door, They Dance, Hot Stuff, Signed Sealed Delivered I’m Yours; I Am Your Child; Weekend in New England; Let’s Hang On; Can’t Take My Eyes Off You; I Believe in You and Me; I Made It Through the Rain; Mandy; medley: One Voice, I Write the Songs, The Old Songs, American Bandstand, Some Kind of Friend, New York City Rhythm, Read ‘em and Weep, Ships, Somewhere Down the Road, This One’s for You, Tryin’ to Get the Feeling, Looks Like We Made It, Daybreak; Copacabana (At the Copa).