From 'It's a Miracle' to 'Copacabana,' Manilow entertained his faithful with nostalgia and humor.
It's a miracle that Barry Manilow, 25 years after his last hit song, can fill an arena.
To be sure, Neil Diamond and Billy Joel have been packing hockey and basketball palaces for years without current hits, but they never left the arena circuit. Manilow, however, retrenched to such local venues as the State Theatre, the Ordway and even the one-third full grandstand at the State Fair. On Friday, he drew 11,256 Fanilows to Xcel Energy Center who waved their (free) green Manilow glowsticks like tweens at a Hannah Montana concert.
Never have so many middle-aged women looked so liberated and excited at a concert. It was grandmas and moms gone wild. They danced, waved their arms, sang along and kvelled like grandmothers at their grandsons' bar mitzvahs.
The woman next to me held her arms up with religious zeal during "Weekend in New England." As another hit began, the woman behind me declared, "I'm going crazy." And her husband, looking a little less enthusiastic, dutifully waved two glowsticks in the air.
Manilow is the musical equivalent of romance novels, greeting cards and chick flicks that end with a great big kiss. Or to put it in unkosher deli terms, take a lot of schmaltz, some syrup, saccharine, a shot of vanilla, a chunk of cheese and a big slice of ham.
Ensconced in Las Vegas since February 2005, Manilow, 64, did a rare, 95-minute road show that was a little slick, a little rushed and overwhelmingly nostalgic. The bigger the ballad, (he invented the power ballad) the better on Friday. "I Made It Through the Rain" was a thunderstorm of determination. "Mandy" was a goosebump-inducing duet with himself on TV in 1975. And "Could This Be Magic" had a rousing crescendo that made the women swoon.
A slick showman, Manilow introduced himself as Prince (then said "just kidding, my nose is bigger"); told self-deprecating jokes ("I'm such a sex god") and heartwarmingly sentimental stories (about his grandpa starting the standing ovation at Barry's Carnegie Hall debut); and slow danced with Andrea from Minnetonka during "Moonlight Serenade" (one of the vocal highlights).
What was not to like? His 1960s numbers (from the second of his recent three decade-tribute bestsellers) were uninspired and unimaginative ("Yesterday," "I Can't Take My Eyes Off of You") and his attempts at uptempo rhythmic numbers weren't convincing (save for "Copacabana"). But kvetching about Barry Manilow is like complaining about your grandmother. By the end of the night, all the Fanilows were -- of course -- verklempt.
Jon Bream • 612-673-1719