Barry Manilow review – mellow master glides through his hits with grace

There’s jubilation in the air tonight. Tens of thousands of Manchester City fans file out into the Etihad campus in a sea of blue as they celebrate winning the Premier League. Moving in the other direction towards the newly opened Co-Op Live arena is a crowd dotted with pink fluffy cowboy hats and Barry Manilow T-shirts, as people flock to see the 80-year-old perform his final tour (six years on from his previous “final” tour, One Last Time). Glittery green glow sticks are handed out, and as the lights drop, the venue pumps out a warm-up medley of dance tracks by the likes of Underworld and Fatboy Slim, with the room resembling a rave for airport traffic controllers as the sticks gently wave back and forth.

Things soon settle down as Manilow steps out in sparkly attire, with a 13-piece band, to open with the slick groove of It’s a Miracle. It sets the tone for an evening of music that seems eager to comfort and soothe, rather than challenge or surprise. “Anybody like the music of the 1970s?” Manilow asks at one point, before following up with, “Good, you’re in the right place.” He glides through hits with grace, while songs such as Looks Like We Made It show that his voice is still more than capable of hitting fairly soaring heights.

‘Anybody like the music of the 1970s?’ … Manilow and support. Photograph: Shirlaine Forrest/WireImage

There’s a tribute to his grandfather and inspiration via This One’s for You, and on Mandy, Manilow treats us to video footage of him performing the ballad in 1975, turning the song into a reflective duet with his younger self. Could It Be Magic is a fun, camp romp, with glitter and feathery outfits bringing a touch of old-school Vegas flair. The tropical disco boogie of Copacabana is pure lounge singer cheese and end-of-the-night wedding vibes, but Manilow seems more than aware of his own smooth, safe, easy listening legacy. “I hope my songs live on forever in elevators and dentist waiting rooms,” he jokes at one point. However, when the curtains finally draw closed, he seems teary saying his goodbyes, as a sea of fans bathed in green celebrate with the same gusto as those in blue outside.


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