On Tuesday night one of my dreams came true: I got to meet and have my photo taken with Barry Manilow. Having been a fan of his music for more than 10 years, being able to meet the man himself backstage before the concert was a fabulous experience I’ll never forget.
Upon arriving at the Staples Center, my friend and I were greeted by Barry’s team and given these beautiful Platinum VIP passes that were made of metal. I’ve never seen anything like it, despite having been to several meet and greets. These VIP badges are easily the best in the business.
After going through security, we were led backstage to a private room that was elegantly decorated by Barry’s team. The room was adorned with flowers, plants, bottles of champagne, and an oversized lava lamp for good measure.
There were 11 VIPs, including my friend and me, and we were all given platinum-colored gift bags containing a glow stick, a copy of Barry’s newest album, My Dream Duets, and an exclusive One Last Time! champagne glass. While I opted for water, my friend told me the champagne was wonderful.
While waiting to meet Barry, the meet and greet hosts filled us in on how the evening would play out, and they showed us the framed and autographed platinum “Mandy” record we’d all receive in the mail. As you can see from the photo below, it’s a beautiful collectible that celebrates the hit single’s 40th anniversary.
Luckily, my friend and I were the second group to meet Barry. While I’ve met and interviewed many celebrities, I have to admit, I was a little nervous when we were about to go in and meet Barry. This wasn’t the first time I met him. I met Barry at a CD signing for his wonderful album 15 Minutes at Radio City Music Hall in NYC a few years ago, and he was extremely nice. This time I wanted to make sure I made the most out of the meet and greet, and that I didn’t blink when our photo was being taken.
When my friend and I walked into the room, Barry greeted us both warmly. We both started chatting with him and then my friend had a brief discussion with Barry. Following this, Barry turned to me and said, “So, what brings you here?” I told him about my blog, my love for his music and how I’ve never seen him perform one of my favorite ballads of his live: “Bring On Tomorrow.” Barry said, “I’ve never performed that one while you were in attendance? I did that one a lot in Vegas. It’s a terrific song. I’m glad you found it.” I ended by saying that I’m doing another meet and greet with Barry when he comes to Philadelphia. He seemed impressed by this and responded with a smile and said, “That’s great!”
Then Barry said, “Let’s take a photo together.” The three of us turned toward the cameraman and he fired away. Barry then said, “How about we take individual photos?” Not being one to object, I said, “Of course!” As you can see from my photo with Barry, it turned out great! We shook hands, and as my friend and I headed for the door Barry said, “I’ll see you in Philadelphia!”
Once my feet landed on the ground, I headed to the merchandise booth where I picked up the beautiful letterman jacket Barry has for sale at his shows this tour. I was told by someone on his team that the jacket was made from scratch and that they designed it themselves. It’s wool and leather, and extremely well made.
With my jacket in one hand and my Platinum gift bag in the other, I made my way into the arena to locate my seat in the front row. As I did, the lights dimmed and music started to play. As the roar of the crowd escalated, I ran to my seat, which was replete with a sign saying it was reserved for me. It’s the little touches like this that make people feel special, and it’s what separates Barry’s meet and greet experience from every other one out there. The red curtains parted, the band broke out into “It’s a Miracle” and Barry took to the stage and was met with deafening applause. For the next 90 minutes he escorted the crowd on a euphoric musical journey featuring his biggest hits, a handful of deep cuts and a track off his new album – “Zing! Went The Strings of My Heart” – where Barry sang alongside a video-screen representation of Judy Garland.
From the songs with lush arrangements to those that were stripped down and intimate, every piece of music Barry and his band performed was compelling and heartfelt. During Barry’s impressive 16-song medley, I was blown away by his ability to seamlessly transition from one song to the next while belting out vocals more powerful and clear than a singer half his age could muster.
My favorite performances of the evening were “Even Now,” which features a spectacular finish, “Keep Each Other Warm,” an overlooked gem from Barry’s eponymous 1989 album, and the song that got me hooked on his music more than a decade ago: “Weekend in New England.”
Barry Manilow is a one-of-a-kind entertainer that everyone should see live at least once. And with this being his last big tour, now’s the time to buy a ticket. I’ve seen him live five times and number six will be when he returns to Philadelphia in June. Barry is an underrated singer, lyricist, producer, and composer whose music is wonderfully complex and deeply emotional. Rolling Stone put it best when they stated that Barry Manilow is “a giant among entertainers…the showman of our generation.”
As the curtains closed and the lights came up, I looked around the Staples Center and saw a sea of smiling faces. Everyone in attendance thoroughly enjoyed themselves and rightfully so. With Barry Manilow, music and passion is always in fashion and on this night he delivered it in spades. While this being his last tour could be seen as a sad moment in time, I prefer to look at it as a celebration of a remarkable career punctuated by songs that served as the soundtrack for so many lives. I’m glad to have been along for the ride and look forward to experiencing it one last time.