Back in 1979, Ray Stevens cut a funny parody song, “I Need Your Help Barry Manilow,” at the peak of the pop-meister’s first wave of fame.
Now, 31 years later, Las Vegas will have to face the fact that Manilow is helping us about as much as he plans to.
The ageless crooner is still going strong, but he’s 66, and you can’t blame him if his two-year contract calls for a limit of 78 shows per year at Paris Las Vegas.
Wayne Newton can’t help much either. His Tropicana commitment ends April 24, and he has talked of retirement. Celine Dion returns next year to give us about 70 shows per year, comparable to Caesars Palace roommate Cher.
Casino-based singing faces the same problem as the touring concert industry. Aging acts such as The Eagles (due April 24 at the MGM Grand Garden) still move most of the tickets, and it’s not clear who will follow them. The latest teen heartthrob, Justin Bieber, is sure to pack the Planet Hollywood Resort on July 24. But will he sustain or go the way of the Jonas Brothers?
When British singer Matt Goss opened his new lounge show at Caesars Palace, R-J comrade Doug Elfman and I started counting up how many pure singers — not impressionists or tribute-show impersonators — are on the Strip right now.
On the male side, you have the above-mentioned elders and Donny Osmond. Like the elders, his fans are at least in half a closed loop of lifelong devotees.
That leaves Goss and the vocal quartet Human Nature as the only “newcomers,” though both carry over a bit of momentum from earlier pop lives in England and Australia, respectively.
Human Nature survived its fragile infancy at the Imperial Palace and turned the corner, says producer Adam Steck. It helped to have Smokey Robinson’s name as presenter, and a Motown theme.
“But they still don’t have that national presence we’re looking for,” Steck says. The next step is to try to get the group on national TV.
On the female side are Marie Osmond (though counting her along with Donny is counting one show twice) and two less secure singers: Lani Misalucha at the Las Vegas Hilton and “American Idol” finalist Jasmine Trias with Society of Seven at the Gold Coast.
We need your help, “American Idol.” The TV show’s continued popularity — at least until Simon leaves — proves we haven’t shunned singers in favor of comedians, as the Strip would suggest.
It seems to be more a gap in the pipeline. A live “Idol” spinoff would be one easy way to develop some showroom names for tomorrow.
Contact reporter Mike Weatherford at email@example.com or 702-383-0288.