By DAN MACINTOSH
Barry Manilow has not always been a big favorite among Rock ‘N’ Rollers because his commercial bread and butter is the big, emotional ballad. His huge hit, “I Write the Songs” may contain the line, “And I wrote some Rock ‘N’ Roll so you can move,” but Manilow hasn’t written much Rock ‘N’ Roll, if at all, over the years. And yet, backed by the Los Angeles Philharmonic, Manilow put on a lively show even a rocker could love.
Manilow’s recent studio album, This Is My Town: Songs of New York, inspired the native New Yorker to wear a leather jacket and perform “This is My Town,” but this was mostly a night for hits, not for presenting newer material. Manilow sure has a lot of hits, too.
He opened with “It’s a Miracle,” and then proceeded keep those big hits coming. “Daybreak” and “Can’t Smile Without You” had this non-diverse, almost entirely white audience singing and swaying along happily. Manilow early on decried the severe shortage of melodies in today’s modern songs, and this audience proved its agreement by enthusiastically turning into the artist’s backing choir.
The concert wound up predictably with Manilow’s first big hit, “Mandy,” which he played while sitting at a piano, and then “I Write the Songs.” For the latter, Manilow was joined onstage by the Los Alamitos High School choir. This choir remained onstage for the upbeat closer, “Copacabana.” Manilow joked, when introducing this group of high school vocalists, that this was a rare sighting of these teenagers not texting.
Yes, Manilow sings a lot of slow songs. Yet these are literate, and – yes, also melodically memorable – songs. His music primarily appeals to soft-hearted women, it’s true, but this music is not schmaltz. He does what he does extremely well, and this night at the Hollywood Bowl he enjoyed himself as much as the audience did.
Lorna Luft opened the night with a theatrical medley tribute to her mother, Judy Garland. Luft looked and sounded great, even though the red cape wrapped around her sparkly blue outfit did kinda make her look like a Las Vegas superhero. It was also a little odd, too, that Luft didn’t sing her mother’s most famous song, “Over the Rainbow.”
Even hardcore rockers have soft spot in their hearts, and tonight Barry Manilow found a way to touch these soft spots.
Barry Manilow at Hollywood Bowl – Courtesy of Earnes Bondurant