"The last time I sang in Brooklyn was at my Bar Mitzvah", said Barry Manilow at Wednesday's birthday concert at the Barclays Center, the last stop on his farewell tour.
Manilow sounded and looked great, and his show was a profoundly moving and personal experience for me. As Barry played most of his hits, including "Mandy" from 1975, I saw the past forty years of my life flash before my eyes. It was actually in 1974, his first year as a solo artist, that I saw Barry perform at Mister Kelley's in Chicago, the Schaefer Music Festival in Central Park(opening for Melissa Manchester), and the Bottom Line in New York.
He opened his shows with "It's a Miracle" in those days, as he did on Wednesday in Brooklyn. At the Barclays Center, Barry seemed to still think it was a bit miraculous that he had been discovered by Clive Davis("I don't know what he saw in me"), who was in the audience. And when the crowd swooned during one of his romantic melodies, Manilow asked "Still?".
"It's a Miracle" inspired me so much when it was released in 1974, that I listened to it for many years as a pre-comedy performance ritual. And it is one of the only songs that I dare to sing at karaoke.
Later in the show, his rendition of a song from his very first album, "I Am Your Child" choked me up as the lyrics brought to mind my 97 year old father and 88 year old mother. "Whatever I do, you taught me to do.... whatever I am, you taught me to be."
From my days as a college student, to receiving invitations in the mail to join AARP, Barry Manilow has been a constant in my life. His songs conjure up memories, and inspire me to come up with pictures and moving images to go along with his music. And to this day, after more than 35 years as a comedian, I still get that same burst of adrenaline before a show when I listen to "It's a Miracle".
Barry Manilow's farewell show Wednesday may have been a goodbye to huge, multi-city tours. But he gave the strong impression that his performing days were far from over. Which is music to the ears of a fellow nice Jewish boy from Brooklyn.