Now that Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, Perry Como and Sammy Davis Jr. are long gone, but not forgotten, the musical mantle of the male troubadour-crooner specializing in Broadway show tunes, pop songs and vocal jazz standards is almost vacant.
Yes, the magnificent Tony Bennett is still out there, but, regrettably, he’s slowing down, and his live performances have become fewer and farther between.
With the exception of numerous younger imitators of the old masters (Harry Connick, Jr., John Pizzarelli) and hundreds of tribute artists (tonight only: so-and-so’s tribute to Sinatra), who’s left out there that’s still an original?
Only Barry Manilow!
Manilow is the true male heir-apparent to that stylized Las Vegas singer-showman who still performs with a huge orchestra backing him up and an adoring public that still comes out by the thousands to hear him sing.
Bounding out onto the stage in a whiter-than-white jacket Manilow was instantly embraced by the waves of applause from the all-ages audience that had come to hear his platinum hits “Mandy,” “I Write The Songs,” “Copacabana,” “Looks Like We Made It” and so many more.
Starting off an almost hour-and-half set with “Could It Be Magic,” Manilow’s warmth and energetic showmanship quickly transformed SPAC’s amphitheater into an intimate casino nightclub show.
Not an easy thing to do considering the blanketing sound of crickets and the annoying mosquitoes that are hallmarks of any outdoor performance anywhere during the summer months.
But Manilow did it effortlessly with his personal charisma, loads of vocal talent and the accompaniment of the terrific Youngstown Symphony Orchestra, bolstered by a bevy of back-up singers. And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that he has tons of instantly recognizable, crowd-pleasing tunes to pull out of his popular song-bag all night long.
There was no opening act because the scheduled performer got stuck in traffic on his way up from Washington D.C. No biggie. Nobody seemed to notice.
Review and photographs by Andrzej Pilarczyk