weather icon Clear
RJ App
Vegas News, Alerts, ePaper

It’s Manilow Live! from Westgate in Las Vegas

Updated July 22, 2018 - 9:48 am

The Kats! Bureau at this writing is International Theater at Westgate Las Vegas, where I have been outfitted with a pair of 3-D glasses and two glow sticks (in case one runs short of glow).

This can only mean one thing: Manilow Live!

Barry Manilow is back in the showroom made famous by, among other, Elvis, Liberace Wayne Newton .. and Doug Henning. Yes, the late magician star of the 1970s and early ’80s was an inspiration of Joe Labero of “Inferno” at Paris Las Vegas, one of Manilow’s old Vegas haunts.

Labero, who is seeing Manilow for the first time, told me the last time he was in this venue was in the mid-1970s, when he was a teenager and Henning was all over network television. The jeans, the long hair, the long-sleeved cosmic T-shirt … he would eventually be a subject of a terrific Martin Short impression.

He being Henning. Not Labero.

Manilow opens with a video splash of album covers — “Manilow II,” “Duets,” “This One’s For You,” “Tryin’ To Get The Feeling” in this rollout. His name is spelled out on the LED screen, which covers the entire width of the stage. “Hello Los Angeles,’ “Hello Houston,” “Hello Denver.” Manilow is taking us on a road trip. No “Hello Boise,” sad to say.

Samples of Manilow’s hits are played in a mash-up, too, as a taste of what’s to come. Some artists would be averse to playing segments of their own music before a show.

But not Manilow. He’s just tryin’ to get the feelin’, again. Crowd, rife with Fanilows, is all worked up.

“It’s a Miracle” kicks it off. “Hi, up there in the balcony!” the superstar shouts, an indication the balcony is indeed open. The Super Bowl party and Barry Manilow. That’s when the balcony is open at the International.

Manilow asks a question to which he knows the answer. “Where did the melodies go? They are right here tonight! We have loads of melodies.”

Love that. ‘Loads of Melodies” should be the subtitle of this show.

As he leads into “This One’s for You,” Manilow tells us he was raised by two Russian immigrants. “They just thought I was the Kats’ pajamas!” he says, obviously a sly shout-out to yours truly. Thank you, Barry!

At the piano, facing the audience, I want to see an overhead shot of Manilow’s hands, moving across those keys. I’ve made this point before, too. When a world-famous pianist is playing live, in front of you, the scene begs for a look at his artistry. And now I’ll step off this point.

As the opening bars of “On Broadway” play, Manilow shows up in a leather jacket on stage right. Like magic (#henning)! His arrival is startling to those on house left.

“Scared the (stuff) out of you, eh?” says Barry the Bad-Ass.

We’re in 3-D mode for “This is My Town,” and we take an aerial tour of New York. “Superman, eat your heart out!” Manilow calls as we fly up the side of the Empire State Building and out to Yankee Stadium and Coney Island. It might be fun to use this time-honored effect for a tour of Las Vegas. Just a thought from someone watching a show in Las Vegas.

Why don’t 3-D glasses ever fit, by the way? That needs to be looked at.

“New York City Rhythm,” is Manilow’s ode to the city of the same name. Manilow is from Brooklyn, actually. Here’s a joke about Brooklyn: When the New Jersey Nets moved to Brooklyn, they had to get new jerseys. And thanks to the estimable Geechy Guy for that one.

If you can actually hear swooning, you hear it at the start of “Weekend In New England.” “When can I touch you?” Manilow sings, and there are shouts of, “Now!” He laughs, breaking the song and saying, “Thank you!”

Wonderfully constructed song. This is a real story, and as Manilow always says, the phrase, “Weekend in New England” isn’t in it.

Oh, maybe we know this one: “I am stuck on Band-Aid! ‘Cuz Band-Aid’s stuck on me!” Manilow runs through a few of his commercial jingles from the ’70s. “Like a good neighbor, State Farm is theeeere!”

“I got called to write a commercial for a douche,” he says. “I drew the line there. Besides, nothing rhymes with douche.”


Displayed grandly behind Manilow is an image of his debut album, from 1973, or as he says, “1821.” He glances at the screen and says, “I look like the Mona Lisa there.”

That was a time when album art actually mattered, which I miss in the same way I miss the smell of a new album when you open the wrapper. But I don’t miss the pops, hiss, skips and warps. Kids, never leave an album in the sun.

Ah. I’d forgotten Donna Summer covered “Could It Be Magic?” Manilow performs that version. With his backing dancers in red sequins … we have groovers.

“So!” Manilow asks at the end of that dance-fest. “What’s your 75-year-old grandfather doing tonight? When I was a kid, the only thing my grandfather could bring up was phlegm!” But as he says, “Age does not matter — unles you’re a banana! And my banana is doing fine, thank you!”

Manilow is feeling it, banana-wise and otherwise.

The song written by Bruce Johnston of the Beach Boys, “I Write the Songs,” has the crowd waving glowsticks. Whatever you do, do not bite the glowsticks, folks.

A full-splash “Copacabana” closes this one, with Manilow decked out in a blazing fuchsia jacket. He and the backing singers take to a horseshoe-shaped catwalk built especially for the show. This room has had a lot of work over the years, I say from a booth designed for “The Elvis Experience,” a show that lasted for like 24 days a few years ago.

“Copacabana” might seem twice-dated by now, a 1970s song reminicing about the ’50s. But at in three crisp verses, the song tells a whole story. I’ve felt there are two types of people in this world: Tonys, and Ricos. Except for Barry. He stands alone.

John Katsilometes’ column runs daily in the A section. Contact him at jkatsilometes@reviewjournal.com. Follow @johnnykats on Twitter, @JohnnyKats1 on Instagram.

Don't miss the big stories. Like us on Facebook.