My “I’ve Gone Further For Less” file was getting a little thin, so I decided to beef it up last week by flying to Seattle for a Barry Manilow concert.
My dear friend Michelle happens to be a Fanilow too and she lives in Seattle, so it all made sense. Besides, I always enjoy visiting the Pacific Northwest because it’s the only place on Earth where I appear to have a tan. But really, it was all about Barry.
Regular readers know that my love affair with Mr. Mandy dates back to my earliest memories and has almost never wavered. I say “almost” because Barry presided over my only karaoke disaster to date, which took place in 1999 at my sister Lynne’s 30th birthday party. I love Lynne dearly, but you know those buckets people are always carrying tunes in? Well, let’s just say that hers has a perpetual hole in the bottom. For reasons I still can’t explain, I agreed to take the stage with Lynne and to convert “I Can’t Smile Without You” to a duet. As boos rained all over us, an audience member offered us money to give the stage back and pointed out that, whether or not I could smile without Lynne, I should definitely consider singing without her.
Despite that setback, Barry and I somehow made it through the rain and I could hardly wait to see him again. As Michelle and I were finding our seats at the Key Arena last Wednesday night, she mentioned this tour might be Barry’s last. He’d recently had hip surgery, and let’s face it: he ain’t getting any younger.
When we sat down and found out that Barry’s opening act was a smooth jazz musician named Dave Koz, it sure sounded like a death knell to me.
I love music and find some redeeming quality in most genres, but not smooth jazz. I’m sorry, but I just have to say it: smooth jazz is a musical sociopath that lays ruthless waste to every song that was ever worth hearing. Don’t believe me? Before Barry took the stage, smooth jazz mowed down the Beatles’ “Got To Get You Into My Life.” Then it decimated “Let It Go,” though I think we can all agree that was a mercy killing. Don’t get me wrong: Dave’s an incredibly talented musician. I just wish he’d lend his talents to regular old bumpy jazz.
Fortunately, my worries that the opening act spelled doom were unfounded. Barry delivered such a gem, it’s hard to believe that he’s 72. So is the average Fanilow from the looks of things, but that didn’t stop one of them from tossing on stage a pair of white underwear of such enormity that I mistook it for a sail.
Speaking of sailing, Barry had a steady hand at the helm as he steered us through wave after wave of emotion and cheese. He set us atop a crest with “It’s a Miracle,” dashed us on the rocks of heartbreak with “Weekend in New England,” and then set us down gently with “Somewhere in the Night.”
When he sang “I Write the Songs,” backed up by the entire glowstick-waving audience and a gigantic gospel choir, I thought he might be bringing us home. But no, he wasn’t going to let us leave the Key Arena without stopping at the hottest spot north of Havana. And for all four minutes of that glorious encore, we were young and we had each other: Who could ask for more?