7:30 p.m. Saturday
Chesapeake Energy Arena
100 W. Reno
The man who became an icon for molding “Mandy,” “Copacabana (At the Copa)” and “Can’t Smile Without You” into chunks of pop-culture history is a natural showman with a gleaming voice, penchant for flashy stage attire and a certain mom-friendliness.
But he’s also found himself as the punch line to many a joke, most notably in the John Hughes film The Breakfast Club — “Does Barry Manilow know that you raid his wardrobe?” Judd Nelson’s character asked his superior — and as recently as 2006, when Australian officials played his music over a speaker system to enforce curfews and deter crime late at night.
“It didn’t work. The kids liked it,” Manilow said. “I won that one.”
Manilow hasn’t rested on his laurels like one might expect someone of his particularly shiny stature to; he’s still touring as much as ever. He’s also had new material come out almost annually over the years, and last summer, released his first studio album in a decade. Titled 15 Minutes, the concept record skittered close to being a rock opera, centered on the pitfalls of fame.
“This album … what a big challenge,” he said. “I made up a character — a young guy, I thought — who wants fame, gets it, then blows it. The guy I imagined played guitar, and I don’t play guitar. Writing an album that was guitar-driven, not piano-driven, that was a big obstacle for me.”
Even at his age — he turns 69 in less than two weeks — he discovered personal revelations in the process.
“I was writing it for someone fictitious, but when I started doing the vocals, I realized I had gone through all of it,” Manilow said. “It was a real trip to realize I had gone down this road, too.”
The man who sang “I Write the Songs” in 1975 found that writing songs with a concept in mind was not only freeing, but also an easier way but also an easier way to be creative.
“It’s hard to write a love song. If you give me a story and a situation and a character, that’s fun. That I can do,” he said. “That’s easier than sitting at the piano with the intention of writing a hit song. I don’t know how to do that.”
Manilow’s most recent disc, Live in London, hit shelves in April. It’s his fifth live album, but one he promises that not only is unlike his, but any other musician’s, for that matter.
“This is as good a live album that I’ve ever made or ever heard from any one in all my years,” he said. “The difference was the Royal Philharmonic Orchestra. There were 75 great musicians behind me on this, and 20,000 people in front of me. When you turn this album on, the size of it is bigger than anything I’ve ever heard, and somehow, we captured that on the CD.”
While he no longer tops the Billboard charts like he used to, the world-famous singer appreciates his fans more now than ever, and fully intends on reciprocating the decades of love come Saturday, when he headlines Chesapeake Energy Arena.
“These shows are more than a pop singer performing, it’s a very intimate and moving thing to me. I wouldn’t be doing it if they hadn’t been supportive, and they’ve been with me all this time,” Manilow said. “Now, it’s not only them, but their children, and sometimes, their children’s children. It’s like walking out to a sea of family at this point: They aren’t strangers anymore.”
6 songs we can’t wait for Barry Manilow to cover
1. “Ni**as in Paris,” Jay-Z and Kanye West
2. “Sexy and I Know It,” LMFAO
3. “Drunk Girls,” LCD Soundsystem
4. “6 Foot 7 Foot,” Lil Wayne
5. “Rolling in the Deep,” Adele
6. “Tik Tok,” Ke$ha
12 Barry Manilow singles that — like fortune cookies — are hilarious when you add “in bed”
1. “Some Good Things Never Last”
2. “Lay Me Down”
3. “Why Don’t We Try a Slow Dance”
4. “Never Met a Man I Didn’t Like”
5. “This One’s for You”
6. “Big Fun”
7. “I’ve Never Been So Low on Love”
8. “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again”
9. “Ready to Take a Chance Again”
10. “Let’s Hang On!”
11. “I Wanna Do It with You”
12. “Read ’Em and Weep”