Thursday, February 21, 2008

A Barry-licsious New Barry Manilow Video

Edgar Winter Dog here reporting on my last visit to Nerdia's house to have a sleep-over with my new friend Franz Alonzo. Nerdia made us watch the latest Barry Manilow concert video Songs of the Seventies. No, contrary to all our expectations, this wasn't a concert version of Barry's latest cover album. This was a live show of all of Barry's own seventies hits, with a few stray covers included.

I was disappointed at first but then I started to dig it like a rawhide bone. I learned to have an appreciation for Barry during Nerdia and Coolias Barry Manilow Appreciation Nite years ago. I was a star at that party in my nerdy blue sweater. I know Barry likes to call himself "The Showman of Our Generation" but he's far from the slick showmen I know, like Frank Sinatra. What's so appealing about Barry is his human-ness, his continuing physical discomfort onstage, his normal nerdy guy quality, that being a normal nerdy guy who can sing really catchy pop songs. He smiles at applause like the old shoemaker - so glad you like his shoes. He's anything but a Hollywood butt sniffing showman of our generation. Even when he's pissy, he's still likeable. And I can't say that for everyone at the dog park.

But I digress. This show, directed by David Mallet, was a refreshing change for Barry, who sounded great, by the way. During "New York City Rhythm" musicians milled around the stage and it felt arty, natural, fun and energetic, not staged or chaotic. I haven't been a fan long but Nerdia has and she told me that Barry revamped all his biographic banter between songs, even performing rare non-hits like the lovely "I Am Your Child" which he said he wrote before leaving his childhood home of Brooklyn. The show was a Brooklyn reunion of sorts. The Brooklyn Navy Yard was the setting, but transformed very creatively with star-spangled wall-hangings and Dr. Seuss-like stage walks through the audience.

The audience interaction was most pleasant. He performed Copacabana with Elvis-like comeback-flair, sitting in a sea of an audience, doing the song acoustically as a soft rumba, shaking hands all around, graciously shaking the hand of the featured guitar player at the end. We even saw close ups of the hand-touchings and I dug the symbolic warmth. I like to be petted myself.

The only drawbacks of the show: it felt short and packed with a large medley of his hits, framed by "The Old Songs" which was a cheat of an 80s hit snuck in there. Thankfully, we didn't have to suffer through a guest-fan singing "I Can't Smile Without You" for once, but Nerdia missed hearing "Weekend in New England." Maybe it's too hard to sing anymore but hey, give it to a backup singer to do. Barry did tackle "One Voice" at the end a capella and did a good job for being 62 and all.

The DVD extras also included a funny flub with Barry talking into a water bottle instead of a microphone, Barry interacting with his band, restarting a song that was off-kilter and performing a rendition of "Who's Been Sleeping in My Bed." At one point he was jumping up and down with such relaxed glee - Nerdia said she had never seen him so happy on stage. We both felt endeared. Which is the particular Manilow Magic we speak of. I hope to see him this year again as a coach on American Idol. He is their most generous helper and I have no doubt if I turned up at one of his shows he would pet me. Barry rocks.

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