Barry Manilow is a class act. He and his team care about the fans on a level unlike any other celebrity I’ve met, and they go above and beyond across the board. A perfect example of this is my recent trip with my wife to Las Vegas to see Barry Manilow’s new residency, which is entitled Manilow Las Vegas: The Hits Come Home! Back in June I was invited, along with 19 other lucky fans, to attend a special interview Barry did in the Rainbow Room in New York. At the end of the interview he turned to the fans and said that he wanted all of us to come see his new show in Vegas on opening night, which was the following week, and that he was going to give us free tickets to the show and pay for our airfare and hotel expenses. In addition to paying my expenses, Barry included a +1 with my package so my wife could join me. Naturally, my mind was blown by this astounding act of generosity.
Any other artist would have, at most, given fans tickets to a show and I had a feeling that might happen since Barry’s husband and others had said there would be a surprise announcement as part of the interview. But once I realized that airfare and the hotel were included, I knew I’d have a better chance of convincing my wife that we should go. The fact that it took place a week later wasn’t ideal, but we made it work because an opportunity like this rarely presents itself.
The plane to Vegas was delayed and while we were waiting to take off, the flight attendant announced that everyone on the plane was getting a free ticket to one of Barry’s upcoming shows in Vegas. Yet another generous gesture from a timeless music icon. As we exited the plane, we were greeted by women ensconced in yellow feathers, handing out free ticket vouchers, while “Copacabana” played in the background. Then we, along with the rest of the lucky fans, boarded shuttles headed for the Westgate.
The following day my wife and I were relaxing by the pool, soaking in the sun and cooling off in the water, when I stumbled upon an ominous message on Facebook that made my stomach drop. A friend of mine posted a status update saying, “Oh, poor Barry.” I quickly tapped my way to his Facebook page and read a message saying that Barry was hospitalized and that his opening night and subsequent dates that weekend were postponed. Naturally, I was concerned for his health and wished him a speedy recovery. Clearly, one’s health is the highest priority. There was confusion about whether he had pneumonia or bronchitis. Either way, the show we had tickets for was off and we returned home.
A week or so later, I was notified that Barry was giving us lucky “Rainbow Room” fans the opportunity to come back to Vegas at a date of our choosing and that he’d, once again, pay for our airfare and hotel, in addition to the free tickets. Even better, we didn’t need to travel in a group so we could pick a date that worked best for us and fly out of an airport of our choosing. This made for an easy decision on our part as flying out of New York the first time around wasn’t the most pleasant experience. We said “yes” and signed up for his October 27 show.
We arrived in Las Vegas for our second all-expenses-paid Barry Manilow trip on October 26. That night we hit up the Manilow store at the casino, where I tried on a wild sequin jacket and bought a bottle of M cologne, which smells fresh and clean. We went to a fabulous Mexican restaurant called Tacos and Beer and took in some free live music at the casino afterward. The following day we, once again, spent several hours by the pool, which was heated this time around and felt great. Later that evening, we prepared for the show. I was decked out in a button-down white shirt, black jeans, and a blue blazer with a paisley pocket square.
After eating dinner, Stephanie and I went to the Manilow store to pick up our tickets. We were handed an envelope that not only included two tickets that were dead center with a fabulous view, we were provided with two after-show meet and greet passes so we could spend some time with the man himself, Barry Manilow. To me, this was the cherry on top of an epic multi-month journey that was, once more, punctuated by Barry Manilow’s generosity.
As we entered the historic venue where Elvis used to perform, I noticed the Copa Bar to my left, which features fun Manilow-themed drinks. The walls of the bar are adorned with platinum records and photos of Barry. From here I introduced Stephanie to several of the Manilow faithful I’ve befriended over the years and then we headed to our seats. When the lights dimmed and the intro music started to pulsate through the speakers, the audience met it with a thunderous roar. Following the opening video montage, the curtain lifted and disappeared above the M-shaped frame on the stage (which is similar in style to the one from Barry’s Hilton residency); the name Manilow appeared on a screen at the center of the stage and several white spotlights pointed downward as the man himself stepped into the limelight with arms stretched outward and an ear-to-ear grin on his face.
Barry’s 90-minute set was comprised of nearly 20 hit songs. Bookended by “It’s a Miracle,” the show featured music everyone knows and loves, including “Mandy,” “Looks Like We Made It,” “Weekend In New England,” and “I Made It Through the Rain.” For a singer that is 75-years-old, the crowd acted like he was in his 20s and the power and range of Barry’s voice reflected that sentiment. The fans rightfully provided him with countless standing ovations that lasted so long he had to stop talking several times to let them die down. The fervor and excitement in that room was contagious and profoundly compelling. It made it clear to me that we were witnessing a performance by an artist whose music has moved mountains and transcended generations. Elvis might have been the King of Rock and Roll, but that night the fans declared Barry Manilow the King of Las Vegas through their unfiltered praise and jubilation.
Having seen Barry live many times, I know how he likes to whip the crowd into a frenzy and tap into a wide range of emotions. He did the same during this concert. Whether it was the stirring and powerful ending to “Even Now,” the story about his grandfather’s encouragement and faith in his musical talent expressed through “This One’s for You,” or his sexually charged BAMS during Barry’s performance of the disco-version of “Could It Be Magic,” all the right buttons were pushed as the fans expressed their gratitude for his sensational artistry.
The two major highlights of the show happened during “This Is My Town,” which featured a 3D video of Barry flying over New York, and “Copacabana,” where a u-shaped elevated walkway was lowered over the crowd. In addition to the green glow sticks fans are used to being handed at Barry’s shows, we were given old-school 3D glasses. Before starting to perform “This Is My Town,” which is the wonderful title track from his latest studio album, Barry told fans to put on the 3D glasses and we were treated to a flyover video of New York, replete with witty one-liners from the man himself as we assumed his POV. And “Copacabana” was a real treat as the aforementioned u-shaped stage ended right in front of us, meaning Barry and his dancers were situated directly above us during this crowd-pleaser, providing us with the perfect view of this high-energy performance.
The concert ended with a reprise of “It’s a Miracle” and streamers shot out over the crowd to everyone’s delight. After the curtain dropped and the lights raised, I said “hello” to a friend of mine, Keith Leroux, who works for KISS. Like us, he thought the show was excellent and had a great time. We said goodbye to Keith and worked our way over to the backstage door, where we were greeted by Barry and Garry’s daughter, Kirsten. I gave her a box of chocolates and a hug and we were on our way.
We passed by the dressing room and a space where all of the costumes are located. Then we turned into a beautiful room with couches and chairs. It also featured a step and repeat banner and there was a professional photographer present to capture our moment with Barry. While lined up to get our photos taken with Barry, Garry entered the room and saw me first. He said, “Michael! How are you?” as he walked over and greeted us before anyone else. I shook his hand and immediately thanked him, again, for his generosity and hospitality and introduced him to my wife. I told him that it was her first Barry show and he said, “Where have you been!?” Garry then mentioned how he sees all of our wedding photos, honeymoon photos and everything else we share on Facebook, since him and I are friends. He was then pulled away by the women in front of us and he turned back to me to say, “I’m sorry. I hope you don’t mind,” which I didn’t. It was very considerate of him to even say that.
Then Barry walked into the room and greeted the first three people in line, who were already positioned by the step and repeat banner. He then spoke to and took photos with the two women in front of us. Afterward, Barry spotted me and walked over. I shook his hand, introduced him to Stephanie and said, “I have a quick story I want to tell you.” He said, “OK” and I proceeded to tell him how I took voice lessons leading up to our wedding last year so I could sing “I Am Your Child” to our parents at our wedding rehearsal dinner. I told Barry that I made the mistake of looking at my dads while singing and that made me get choked up mid-song. He said, “Yeah, that always happens if you do that.” I responded, “Well, it made the performance more effective because we all cried” and both Barry and I chuckled. I mentioned that I also gave my parents framed sheet music of “I Am Your Child” and told him it’s a beautiful song. We then walked over to the step and repeat banner for our photos. Barry and I took a photo together, followed by one with me, him, and my wife. Before leaving he asked, “Where are you from?” I said, “Philadelphia. I’m one of the lucky fans from your recent Rainbow Room interview that received this all-expenses-paid trip. Thank you so much for this. It was an amazing experience.” He said, “You’re welcome. That interview was a good one, don’t you think?” I said, “Absolutely! I really enjoyed it.” Then we bid him farewell, thanked Kirsten again for everything, collected our belongings and we were off.
Unlike artists who are more concerned with offering people worthless meet-and-greet packages that are nothing more than shameless cash grabs, Barry Manilow knows how to treat his fans right. This all-expenses-paid trip that my wife and I were given by him and his family is reflective of their charitable nature. I’m eternally grateful to Barry, Garry, and Kirsten for everything they’ve done for me including this. They are special people and this overwhelmingly kind act has only reinforced my admiration, affection, and appreciation for them. Long live Barry Manilow.