Once Craig and I entered the arena, I picked up a tour book from the merchandise booth, we had a quick bite to eat, and then we located our seats. Barry was nice enough to provide us with two tickets that were located in the fourteenth row, center. That’s $500 worth of tickets! When I saw Barry, Garry and their daughter backstage later on, I profusely expressed my gratitude. They didn’t have to be this generous, but they were. I was on Barry Manilow’s guest list! While he was serenading the crowd with hit after hit, I made sure to remind myself of this fact and soak it in. Being on the guest list of a legendary performer isn’t something that happens every day, so I try not to take it lightly.
The concert itself was phenomenal. It was my eighth time seeing Barry perform live, and it was easily one of the best. In addition to the hits we’ve come to know and love, he dusted off the gorgeous song “When October Goes,” as well as “Memory,” the most famous song from the musical Cats. I never thought I’d see him perform “Memory” live, but I’m glad he proved me wrong. Considering he recently recovered from straining his voice, it was remarkable to see him tackling such vocally challenging songs – and he did it with aplomb. Barry received standing ovation after standing ovation. At one point, after he belted out a spine-chilling rendition of “Even Now,” the crowd gave him a roaring ovation that went on so long he had to just stand there and let it wash over him until the people’s applause ceased. Manilow magic was alive and well, as more than 17,000 fans waved their glow sticks in the air, cheering on their hero. His ability to whip a crowd into a frenzy is unmatched. Barry knows exactly what he’s doing on stage and he does it better than anyone I’ve ever seen.
When “It’s A Miracle” came to an end and streamers shot over the crowd, Barry said “goodnight” and his signature red curtain closed as he ascended the steps at the center of the stage and walked into the bright light from which he previously emerged at the start of the show. Everyone was smiling and collecting themselves, and Craig and I made our way to the backstage area. We were lead to a VIP room, where we waited for Barry to arrive. I first spotted Barry’s daughter, Kirsten, who I thanked, again, for the tickets and passes. She jokingly remarked how I stayed on top of her about it, and I reminded her that Barry’s publicist said the reason I got my interview with him was because of my vigilance. Then Garry, Barry’s husband, came into the room. He spotted me and came over. Shaking my hand he said, “Michael, I’m Garry. It’s a pleasure to meet you.” Referencing my interview with Barry he said, “Your article was great! Now we need to get you writing for a bigger outlet.” I replied, “You get me a gig with Rolling Stone and I’ll get Barry on the cover.” Then I laughed and patted Garry on the back. A few moments later Barry came into the room. When he made his way over to me, Garry introduced him to me saying, “Barry, this is Michael. He’s the one who interviewed you for The Aquarian Weekly.” Barry lit up, shook my hand and said, “Michael! It’s so good to meet you. Your article was great. I really enjoyed it.” I pulled out a copy of the cover for him to sign, which was printed on high-quality paper so I could frame it later, and he happily did so. He wrote, “To Michael, Thanks Barry Manilow.” We then posed for a photo, which, unfortunately, didn’t turn out great. As you can see, it’s very blurry. While it’s a shame the photographer didn’t take the time to shoot a decent photo, everything else was perfect. I also gave Barry a hard copy of the article and publication for him to keep.
Barry Manilow is more than just a pop artist. He’s a melodic chemist who strategically creates emotionally-charged pieces of music that resonate with people in a way that is unique and profound. At any given moment, I can play one of his songs and be instantly transferred to a happier place. Millions of fans share this sentiment; them going to see him show after show, year after year is a testament to the staying power and the unrelenting positive force of his music. The world is a better place because of Barry Manilow, and I’m glad I discovered him when I did – because doing so has had an immeasurable impact on my life for the better. And I’m thrilled that this three-year goal of interviewing him turned out the way it did. It’s a miracle. A true, blue spectacle. A miracle come true.