In a world with so much uncertainty, hate, fear, injustice, I’m grateful for the joy and pure good feelings Barry Manilow shows provide! My after show Tweet.
Arriving at the Westgate Las Vegas Resort and Casino (formerly the Las Vegas Hilton) on Thursday unlocked my memory bank of sweet welcoming memories from happy days at the start of my now eleven-year “new” journey into life. The sign at the entrance made me giddy… it’s the reason I was there and the catalyst behind how the above-mentioned journey began; the music of Barry Manilow!
The hotel and casino were awash with all things Manilow. Posters, signs, employees wearing buttons, his music filtering through speakers on to the casino floor and the larger than life marquee on the side of the building. It was opening night of Barry’s preview weekend kicking off his new residency at the Westgate and I, for one, could not have been happier.
Yes, I had to have a pic with the poster… thank you, guy, I didn’t know for snapping it.
Lines into the International theater, where the Manilow show will take place on various weekends at least until October (fingers crossed that date will be extended), formed long before the doors were to open at seven. I’m not a first one in, first one out sort of person, heck I have an assigned seat, as long as I’m in it at an appropriate time prior to the shows start, I’m good. Instead, I wandered off to grab a yummy sandwich at Fontana and people watch.
At seven-forty-five-ish, I giddily took my seat (yes, I was giddy for much of the twenty-four hours I spent at the Westgate). I’d known it was a good seat, but until I saw where a third row, aisle, stage left put me, I’d not realized how amazing the seat actually was (wonder if I can reserve this seat forever). A lovely lady who shared she’s a publicist sat next to me. We chatted about what Barry Manilow means to us. I skimmed my details, finally telling her about the book I wrote, ‘It Could Be Magic’, which tells the whole story of how his music changed my life. She told me for her his music brings back sweet memories of happy times she spent with her mom prior to her passing.
The theater is steadily filling, by the look of things, it appears the show might be sold out. For me, that’s not a surprise.
The stage is teasing us in preparation for the show.
Several minutes passed, the house lights dim, there’s a momentary hush followed by applause and the music swells, intensifying the already palpable audience anticipation. Here I need to add a quick disclaimer, since this show was opening night of preview week, I won’t give an exact song list or any spoilers, (to me, to do so, is like describing the details of a great book to someone who’s not read it yet or offering up the finale of a movie), however, I will say the breathtaking new opening; the stage lights and production keep artfully in line with the elaborate awesomeness associated with a Las Vegas show!
And then, at last, the moment arrives… we glance stage left to see the man of the hour entering… we collectively jump to our feet … to thunderous applause, joyous shouts and foot stomping excitement, wearing a gorgeous sparkly evening jacket and a genuine smile that’s brighter than all the lights in Vegas, Barry Manilow, stands front and center, arms outstretched and everything we’ve waited for begins now! He is not a huge figure of a man by any means, but suddenly, like the image on the side of the building, he’s larger than life, filling the entire stage, obliterating everything and everyone around him. It’s then I’m aware of a quick second when his body turns with a slight gesture, like a key that seems to lock in ownership of what’s to come. We’re under his captivating spell and will remain there for the next ninety plus minutes. He did, does and always will hold his audience in the palm of his hand. It’s a rare attribute my oldest son noticed at the first show he attended a decade ago.
I feel myself exhale with a sigh… it’s a miracle, the stress and tension of day to day life, that grips me so often it’s become natural, slowly melts away, I feel comfortable, safe, happy. At least, for now, the struggles of the world are far away, in another world; Barry Manilow’s got this, and everything is going to be all right! And the man, he’s already on fire, bursting with joy-filled exuberance, singing, waving, hopping, running from one side of the stage to the other, … it’s a new show, we don’t know what’s coming, we do know it will be fantastic!
Let’s now take a moment to address a fact. Barry Manilow is less than a month shy of being 75 years old! Let that sink in, 75 YEARS OLD! It’s something he jokingly gives a nod to by saying “what are your 75-year-old grandfathers doing tonight?” He’s been in the business for five decades, actively performing for over four of them. But still, even now, he’s as fresh, energetic and hungry to please as a performer who’s just starting out; he takes nothing for granted and it shows! And his energy, oh my goodness, that is, alone, astounding at any age, but at 75! Really!!!
He never NEVER dials in a performance, I know that for a fact, I’ve seen more of them than I can count, and he never takes it easy. Sure, he might relax his lower extremities on a stool or the piano bench, but trust me, he’s not resting. The entire time he’s not physically moving about, he’s singing and playing the piano, which takes as much stamina as going for a brisk walk. There’s no stack of towels at the ready for a dramatic brow wipe to prove the effort he’s affording us; not even a glass of water is in view.
At a Manilow concert, you won’t witness a short set followed by a length of time when another performer, dancers or a flying trapeze fill time. There aren’t ten-minute costume changes. When he swaps out a jacket, the task is usually completed at the side of the stage, in mere seconds. There is no twenty-minute intermission. Nope… at a Manilow concert, you get at least ninety minutes (often more) of all Barry, all the time. He sings, dances, hops, bops, scoots, all while making it look as effortless as reading a book.
Then there’s his voice; oh, that voice, the range, and the power. We all hear singers who while still talented have morphed in their golden years to a shadowy nuance of their former selves, struggling to be what they once were. Not Barry Manilow! If anything, I dare to say his voice, like fine wine, has grown richer, purer and more magnificent through the years. His vocal clarity, stamina, and purity are second to none… don’t believe me, attend a show and watch/hear him sing Even Now. One of his classics that when he performs it, is mind-blowing. The final note will give you goosebumps as you hold your own breath. As it ends, you will want an instant replay, it is that amazing!
Watching Barry Manilow on stage it’s obvious to see that he is the consummate performer; a gifted musician, singer, songwriter. But most of all, perhaps most importantly, he is the epitome of a gentleman. He exudes natural charm, grace, gentility along with genuine humility and gratitude which stays ever present, on stage and off. His persona in the spotlight is the same as the persona you witness if you meet him on the street. He doesn’t change like a chameleon dependent on his environment. He is authentically who he is on stage and off. A characteristic many in all walks of life would profit by learning.
Oh, by the way… At a Manilow show, you won’t be smacked with vulgarity, suggestiveness or rudeness. It’s a show you can enjoy alone, with the love of your life, with friends or anyone from your five-year-old son, to your ninety-eight-year-old grandma! It’s excellent music and we all know music is universally appealing to the masses!
Throughout the show, the lighting and special features continue to be gorgeous. Ascetically, perfectly enhancing each set, while not creating a distraction; just a beautiful backdrop to engage each of your senses. The New York segment is one of my favorites. As Barry is a native New Yorker, so am I; my heart remains planted there, no matter where else I might live. To see the scenes I love, while hearing the voice I adore, singing lyrics that touch my soul… it’s for sure a moment that causes a few wistful but happy tears.
As the show heads toward its finale, waving glow sticks light the room.
Let me say here, even if you’re not a fan, what comes next to close the show is worth the price of admission… a true OMG Vegas extravaganza. Sadly all good things must end, great things end far too quickly, in spite of time span. From start to finish, the excitement never dwindled, not his, not the audience. There have been moments, oh so many moments… funny, happy, poignant, a few we’ve seen before, some are new, all are wonderful because they’re him. By shows end, there have been roughly fourteen songs, not including about a dozen lengthy samples showcasing many of Barry’s greatest hits. Some are heart touching ballads, others are upbeat, but all of them are bound by one common thread… the way they make you feel. Let me rephrase that, it’s NOT the songs that make you feel (I’ve heard covers of some, that do nothing for me), rather it’s Barry’s unique, incredibly genuine delivery that makes you feel!
I can only speak for myself, but when I say, “how they make me feel”, I do NOT mean how I feel about Barry himself, yes, I have deep admiration and respect for him, I love him as I would any extraordinary human being, but it’s not some goofy fantasy akin to a schoolgirl crush, that’s never been nor will it ever be me. What I do mean about feeling is how his innate ability to bring the lyrics alive with his own genuine emotion, conjures my personal memories of living life with all its ups, downs and in-betweenness. It brings back thoughts of sweetness and sorrow, love lost and found, bittersweet changes, new journeys, and past adventures. As I mentioned early on, it was Barry’s music that on April 14, 2007, serendipitously became the catalyst to starting my life over, Since then, aside from the encouragement and support from my three wonderful sons, the music of Manilow is my life-line to inspiration, to creativity, to making dreams come true, to letting go of the past and finding the courage to begin again, to forget barriers that society attempts to deter us with, to never say can’t, to never give up, to believe with every ounce of my being that true, unconditional love does exist, and to always work toward being the best possible version of me! Pretty darn amazing that one person, one incredible voice, can do that much for another human being.
To circle back to the start. In a world filled with so much chaos and uncertainty, much of which we can’t control, it’s vital for our mental and physical health to find what offers personal peaceful bliss and happiness. When you do find it, grasp it tightly and incorporate it into your life as often as you can, no matter what others may say. If they laugh, criticize or judge, ignore them! For some bliss might be found in Yoga, a spa or a trip to a faraway island. I know it’s odd, but those things actually cause me more stress, so for me that bliss is found via the music and performances of Barry Manilow.
Another take on how he affects us comes from Janet Fauret, my dear friend and fellow Barry admirer who resides in France. After I excitedly regaled every nuance of the show via phone, in a way that made her feel like she too was there, she stated she felt like she was 16 again and even the mundane chores her day would include didn’t seem so dull.
To that end, I am giddy all over again, as I will be attending the official opening of Barry’s show at the Westgate on June 14th. After that, by the grace of God, for as long as Barry graces the stage, I plan to attend as many shows as time and financially are possible. I hope (I don’t mean to be sacrilegious but also offer a prayer) that Barry and the Westgate powers that be, will mutually agree to extend his contract into the distant future, so that for as long as he chooses to, for as long as he’s able to he may keep doing what he obviously loves and does so well and I’ll have the honor, joy, and privilege to bask in and be rejuvenated by that which makes me so very, very happy.
In conclusion, as the curtain drops and we each go back to life, though it doesn’t seem enough all I can say is, Barry, from the bottom of my heart, thank you so very much for being you, for sharing what you do, and for giving me the renewed energy to jump back into life… see you soon.
For Barry Manilow’s show schedule and ticket information at the Westgate click here.
Next up as I live life one word at a time:
The Manilow store at the Westgate.
Why Barry Manilow’s return to Las Vegas, especially the Westgate, means so much to me personally.