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Barry Manilow is on what he’s dubbed his One Last Time trek and, at 71, he’s certainly earned the right to hang up his touring shoes, but if the show on Monday night at Staples Center was any indication, he still has plenty of gas left in the tank.
The concert got off to an energetic start with “It’s a Miracle,” and its fitting opening line, “You wouldn’t believe where I’ve been/the cities and towns I’ve been in,” as Manilow made quick use of a lighted-up ramp that extended into the audience (the front of the ramp later descended to the floor allowing Manilow to slow dance with an adoring fan during his cover of Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade.”
It took a few songs to get the house mix right so that the band didn’t overwhelm Manilow’s vocals on the opener and the disco version (popularized by Donna Summer) of “Could It Be Magic,” but by the time Manilow performed a flawless rendition of bittersweet “Even Now,” sustaining the last two notes with strength and duration, it was clear that if this is indeed the last tour, it is certainly by choice, not because of any vocal diminishment.
Manilow joked about his career longevity — it’s been 40 years since “Mandy” topped the charts — introducing rarity, the lovely “All The Time,” by quipping, “This is a nice one from my first album, which came out in 1821.”
The singer offered a carefully choreographed, slick 90-minute show with little room for spontaneity, but was fully designed to please his longtime fans, who enthusiastically waved glow sticks, handed out by the ushers upon entry, as if they were at a Fanilow baby boomer rave. He made good use of a back-of-the-stage screen, especially during a duet with Judy Garland on “Zing! Went The Strings of My Heart,” during which he displayed an underutilized ability to harmonize beautifully. The screen also displayed the words for a group sing-a-long to “Can’t Smile Without You” — as if any self-respecting Manilow fan doesn’t know the lyrics by heart — and served as a time machine, projecting Manilow’s first appearance on The Midnight Special, circa 1974.
Some of the best moments came when Manilow dismissed the band and the theatrics and settled at the keyboards for affecting, spare renditions of “I Am Your Child” and the aforementioned “All the Time,” an emotional song with an “It Gets Better” theme, written long before that project’s campaign launched a few years ago.
With so many hits in his canon, a medley was inevitable, but it was still impressive that Manilow could jam 15 songs into one and still leave hits undone. “For those of you dragged here tonight, this medley is going to be agony,” he joked.
But it was far from it. It was a stirring reminder of an artist who so dominated the airwaves in the ‘70s that he’s able to still fill arenas five decades later with fans ready to take a chance again on their favorite superstar.
Opener Dave Koz proved the perfect hype man, priming the crowd for Manilow with his tightly paced energetic opening set that included such hits as “You Make Me Smile,” his remake of “Got to Get You Into My Life,” and a lovely “Let it Go,” a song he said he recorded at the behest of his four nieces.
It’s A Miracle
Could It Be Magic
Somewhere in the Night
Can’t Smile Without You
Jump Shout Boogie
I Am Your Child
All The Time
Keep Each Other Warm
Zing! Went The Strings of My Heart
Weekend In New England
Let’s Hold On
I Made It Through the Rain
Mandy/Could It Be Magic Reprise
Medley: “One Voice/Play Me The Old Songs/Bandstand Boogie/I Don’t Want To Walk Without You/New York City Rhythm/Some Kind Of Friend/Read ‘Em and Weep/Ships/Somewhere Down the Road/This One’s For You/Tryin’ To Get The Feeling Again/Ready To Take A Chance Again/Looks Like We Made It/Daybreak/I Write the Songs
It’s a Miracle (reprise)
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