I’ve had the wonderful opportunity to interview and spend time with countless music legends. Two of my favorites are Barry Manilow and Melissa Manchester, both of whom always treat me like family. Over the past week, I got to bring my Dads to see and meet Melissa and Barry. Both experiences were perfect. Below is a recap of our night of Manilow magic.
Ever since I interviewed Barry Manilow a few years ago, his family and team have treated me with such kindness and generosity. They even flew my wife and me out to Las Vegas (twice) to see Barry perform and meet him after the show. You can read all about that wild experience here.
It’s been seven years since Barry has been in Philly, and my first child is arriving next month. So, I knew this was my last concert for a very long time and a great opportunity to share a special night with Dads. Neither of them have seen Barry before, so I knew they were in for a real treat.
I found out by email the day of the show that we were going to meet Barry after the concert. I went in with zero expectations but was delighted that this was going to happen. When I arrived at the box office to pick up our passes, I was floored to find out that Barry’s team upgraded our seats from section 102 to row 9, right in front of the stage. These tickets go for hundreds of dollars, so this was no small gesture. Words can’t express how grateful I am for this level of kindness and generosity. It’s astounding.
Dave Koz, who warmed up the crowd, was spectacular. His level of energy was stratospheric and unrelenting. When I saw him backstage afterward I said, “I bet you can hold your breath longer than anyone under water,” referencing his insane lung power. This guy can hold notes and play like no one I’ve ever seen. And he runs around like a rocker too. Frenetic energy and joy unbounded.
After Dave Koz, Barry came out in his signature dramatic fashion and blew the roof off the Wells Fargo Center. With glow sticks waving and fans screaming, he let out a melodic assault of beautiful music. He’s a musical chemist who knows the precise mixture to drive his fans to a state of delirium. Seeing Barry Manilow live is like watching The Beatles or Elvis at the height of their fame.
Barry likes to open and close shows with “It’s a Miracle,” and that’s what he did in Philly. In between countless standing ovations, he delivered hit after hit. “Weekend in New England” is the song that made me a fan, and his rousing rendition in my hometown was just as exciting as the first time I listened to it. Hearing women scream “Right now!” after he sings “When can I touch you?” is hilarious. Having him respond with, “Really? Still?!” made me laugh harder.
Barry’s sense of humor and self-deprecation makes him all the more charming. He has fun with his heartthrob status, even at nearly 80 years old. An unbuttoning of his jacket, a brush of his pant leg, or a thrust (i.e., bam!) during his disco version of “Could It Be Magic” are all signs of a master at work. He knows what gets his crowd going and pushes their buttons with acute precision.
The concert’s highlight was Barry popping out from behind the big red curtain after it closed to sing a surprise encore of Peter Allen’s “Once Before I Go.” It’s a gorgeous song, and his interpretation was perfectly suited for his booming voice. I hope it winds up on a new studio album. We’ll have to wait and see. After the show, a woman one row ahead leaned toward me and said, “You have a beautiful voice! I was listening to Barry, and you, sing the songs.” I responded, “Oh, I’m sorry. I didn’t realize I was singing so loudly.” She said, “Don’t worry. You sounded great!”
The meet and greet after the show was lovely. The room was decorated with beautiful white flowers, up-lighting, and a step and repeat banner emblazoned with The Manilow Music Project logo. While we waited for Barry to arrive, I spoke with Mark Worrall-Hawkins, a UK-based member of Barry’s team, as well as Marc Hulett, Barry’s personal assistant. I had a pleasant conversation with both. Then Garry, Barry’s husband and manager came into the room. He came right up to me, shook my hand and said, “Where’s your wife?” I said, “She’s at home, pregnant.” Garry replied, “Congratulations! When is the baby due?” I said, “September 20, but I’m sure he’ll have the final call on that.” I told Garry, “I didn’t expect to receive tickets when I picked up my meet and greet passes at the box office” and he said, “We had to upgrade you!” Talk about a real mensch. What a guy! After introducing Garry to both of my Dads, Barry appeared.
Just as Barry walked in, one of my Dads, Kevin, recognized Andrea McArdle to his right. The original actress who played Annie is a Philly native, so I guess it’s not too surprising that she should be there. But I’m sure he didn’t think he’d meet two celebrities in the same room on the same night. Talk about luck! When Barry came up to us, I shook his hand, told him how great his show was, thanked him, and introduced my Dads. Then we posed for a photo, which turned out beautifully, and said “Goodbye.” On my way out, I had the aforementioned exchange with Dave Koz and gave Garry a hug goodbye, offering him my profound gratitude.
Just like the Melissa Manchester concert the week prior, Barry Manilow exceeded my expectations. The music was remarkable. The crowd was electric. And the meet and greet was perfect. Thank you again to Garry, Barry, Kirsten, Mark, Marc, and the entire Manilow crew for providing me and my family with a magical night we won’t forget.