Live: Barry Manilow, Houston
By George Kovacik
In this time of venom-filled abortion debates, Paula Deen’s 30-year old racism, the Trayvon Martin trial, 19 Arizona firefighters losing their lives and other disturbing events, it was nice to spend an pleasant evening outside under the stars with Barry Manilow. Before an energetic crowd who packed the seats and part of the hill at the Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion in The Woodlands, TX (40 miles north of Houston), Manilow broke out the songbook and cranked out hit after hit during his 95 minute set.
“It’s A Miracle” and the disco mix of “Could It Be Magic” kicked off the night and in between that and the dramatic closer “I Write the Songs,” Manilow gave us “Can’t Smile Without You,” “Weekend in New England” (complete with women screaming after the line “when can I touch you” and Manilow responding “I’ve still got it), “This One’s For You,” “Mandy,” which started out with his first appearance on The Midnight Special, a powerful version of “Tryin’ To Get the Feeling,” the showstopper, “Copacabana,” and a new tune from a musical he has written called “Harmony,” which received a thunderous applause. The night’s most moving ballad was “I Am Your Child” from his first album. He talked about the cutting of school music programs and encouraged the crowd to get behind one of his passions, the Manilow Music Project, a fund that gathers, fixes and donates musical instruments to school districts around the country.
Manilow has always been a master showman, but to be honest with you, I wasn’t expecting much from the Brooklyn native who turned 70 last week (that should make you feel old). However, he more than proved me wrong. His voice was strong, he moved up and down the stage and he genuinely looked like he was having the time of his life singing songs that still stand up after all these years.
I first saw Manilow at Illinois State University in 1975 when he was just hitting it big. At one point on Sunday he referred to himself as the “Justin Bieber of the 70s.” Somehow I don’t see Biebs sticking around as long as Barry.