He is bringing his One Last Time Tour to the Sprint Center on Thursday, but Barry Manilow wants to make it clear it’s not a farewell tour. He is not retiring.
“I’ve been roaming the earth for 40 years, and it’s not that I’m retiring,” he told The Star recently. “I will still make albums and do one-nighters here and there. This is the last of the big tours that keep me away from home and living my life. It’s time to stop the big tours, not time to stop.”
It was 40 years ago in October that Manilow recorded “Mandy,” a song that had been a hit for Scott English in Britain, although it was titled “Brandy.” It became the first of 11 Top 10 hits for Manilow, and it propelled his career unexpectedly.
“I was this young guy who didn’t know what was going to happen to him,” he said. “The day I recorded ‘Mandy,’ it was just one song out of 10 I was going to put on my second album, hoping one of them would make it on the radio. But I had no confidence in it. It was a beautiful little ballad, and there were no little ballads on the radio then. I don’t know what was on the radio then — ‘Boogie-oogie-oogie’ or something.
“So I thought, ‘This one has no chance.’ So I recorded it and went on with my life as a struggling musician. A month later, this record went No. 1 and my life exploded.”
“Barry Manilow II” sold more than 2 million albums and jumped to No. 9 on the charts, the first of five successive Top 10 albums for Manilow. The most successful of those was “Even Now,” which sold more than 3 million copies and hit No. 3 on the charts.
He has released 28 studio albums since 1973, including two last year: “Night Songs,” a compilation of his takes on songs from musicals and from the American songbook; and “My Dream Duets,” a compilation of virtual duets in which Manilow sings with legends who have passed on, including Judy Garland, Louis Armstrong, Jimmy Durante, John Denver and Cass Elliot. Both cracked the Top 10 — a sign that there is still demand for his recorded music.
Manilow, 71, said he plans to write and record more but not in the immediate future. “This year is all about putting this show together,” he said. “After the show is done, I’ll deal with what’s next.”
The show will be arranged for arenas and big crowds, although his preference is for smaller venues.
“What I do is intimate,” he said. “It’s difficult to be intimate in front of 15,000 people. But there’s nothing like the excitement of a huge audience. I can’t even describe it. It’s like floating on air. When they cheer you on, it’s exciting. Thank goodness we have a great sound system and a great band and screens so everybody can enjoy it.”
The set list will be a retrospective of his long career, and not just the hits
“I’m going to try to do as many of the big hits as I can, and even some of the smaller hits,” he said. “I dug out some arrangements and had the band learn the songs that were on the radio and some of the songs I haven’t done in a long time. We’ve been rehearsing everything. I’m one of the lucky guys with a big catalog that people know. I’m going to try to sing as many as I can. Those songs are all more meaningful to me now.”
The tour comprises 28 shows. It starts Wednesday in Omaha; Kansas City is the second stop. It ends June 17 — Manilow’s birthday — in Brooklyn, his hometown. And he reiterates: It’s not a farewell tour.
“I’m really not thinking about that (final show) right now,” he said. “As it gets closer I’m sure I will. It’s on my birthday where I started. It’s the perfect ending — of the big tours. I’m not stopping. I’d have to be nuts to stop. Walking on stage and being greeted with incredible energy: You’d have to be dead to not be moved by that.”
Barry Manilow performs Thursday night at the Sprint Center. Dave Koz is also on the bill. Showtime is 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $17.75 to $127.75.
Get free tickets
Barry Manilow has launched a music drive for Kansas City public schools, and as an incentive he is giving donors of new or gently used instruments two free tickets to his Sprint Center concert on Thursday.
Instruments must be dropped off at the Sprint Center box office before the day of the show. The drop-off site is open from 10 a.m. to 6 p.m. They can also be dropped off at any Meyer Music store: 6312 N.W. Barry Road in Kansas City; 1512 U.S. 40 in Blue Springs; and 11890 W. 135th St. in Overland Park. Donors will receive a voucher for two tickets, which can be redeemed at the Sprint Center the night of the show.