I didn’t really warm up to Barry Manilow till about 5 years ago, sure I grew up in the 70s and his music, along with Neil Diamond and many others, served as a background score for my childhood, but it was always considered to be a bit on the cheesy side. It’s only now in my adult years that I can appreciate the masterful melodies and lyrics of both of these cats.
I recently got a chance to view Barry Manilow’s latest DVD release MANILOW: Music and Passion Live From Las Vegas. Well, I have to say, the cheese factor was in full effect. The DVD itself really plays like an infomercial advertising the Vegas show, which is rife with Vegas glitz—medleys, film clips—Barry does a duet with his younger self at one point, which unfortunately serves to remind us just how long ago those days were. He’s obviously aging, the voice is not quite what it was; of course, the man can’t help that, but he does not seem to be embracing it like others have—Mick Jagger comes to mind, Bob Dylan perhaps. Shot mostly with a vanity-cam in diffuse lighting, you can see that the surgery has left a mark. But it’s still Barry Friggin Manilow, and the man deserves his props for creating some very beautiful and classic songs that I still love to listen to, and still enjoyed as the show unfolded.
The Vegas show itself is really a hodge-podge of yesteryear, sure to please the hardcore fans, I might get out there one day, you never know, but there is an underlying melancholy to the whole thing. If Barry Manilow has come out with any decent new music, it has surely escaped my notice, in contrast, the latest Neil Diamond release knocked my socks off.
I put less blame on the man himself than the producers and designers of the DVD and the style of the DVD production—what they chose as additional footage, backstage stuff, ecstatic audience members who are obviously rehearsed—none of which was too terribly interesting. There was one genuine moment where his voice gave out during a show, and he talks about how he and the audience dealt with it, but that aside, I would much prefer to see this extremely talented artist in the hands of a Rick Rubin (producer of Neil Diamond’s last album) for instance, because I am sure there is still some oil to be struck there. I just did not see much of it on this particular DVD.
Overall, I’d have to say the show looks like a nice stroll down memory lane, Vegas-style, and at least he’s still performing at a pretty high level. Those Vegas shows are pretty grueling, not sure if I’d be able to do it. So…Mr. Rubin, if you are listening…next stop, Barry Manilow.