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Wednesday, May 23, 2018
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Being Manilow means the crowd sings along

TAMPA — Repeat this, and I’ll deny it: I knew every word to every song Barry Manilow sang Friday night at The Forum.

But, really, who doesn’t know a Manilow song?

The man has been writing and performing hit songs for more than 40 years.

“Her name was Lola ...”

“Plop, plop, fizz, fizz ...”

“When will our eyes meet ...”

You can finish every sentence.

Manilow unpacked everything from ballads to Broadway for an adoring crowd for 90 minutes straight. Not bad for a guy who turned 70 last June.

Manilow came out for his opener in a Tampa Bay Lightning-blue sequined jacket.

“Hello, Tampa! We’re back!” he said. “But what’s with the weather?”

By the time he got to “Can’t Smile Without You,” he had the entire crowd on its feet singing with -- and in a couple places for - him.

He followed up with his theme for “American Bandstand,” where he made his first television appearance in the 1970s.

He took a seat behind one of the two pianos on stage for “Even Now.” The glow sticks spread throughout the crowd swayed in time.

Manilow slowed down 30 minutes in to introduce Kevin Fuller, band director at Mann Middle School in Brandon. Before Friday’s show Manilow donated a piano to be used in a local school. His Manilow Music Project collects used instruments and donates them to schools in cities where he performs.

Manilow told the crowd his Brooklyn high school was voted the toughest in America when he was there. Rather than play sports or join a gang (“Can you see me in a gang?”) he joined the orchestra.

“I wouldn’t be on this stage tonight if I hadn’t joined that orchestra class,” he said.

After a costume change to a red jacket, he took to his grand piano for a cover of Hank Williams’ “I’m So Lonesome I Could Cry.”

He also sang “If Tomorrow Never Comes,” made famous by Garth Brooks.

The crowd joined in again for “Weekend in New England.” Manilow declared it his most romantic song.

“If you can’t get lucky to this, give up,” he joked.

After boisterous covers of two Four Seasons tunes, Manilow performed a song from “Harmony,” a Broadway musical he co-wrote.

As the setup for “I Made It Through the Rain,” Manilow noted he had had a significant birthday recently.

“I never intended to be this old,” he said, a sentiment likely shared by the audience, a few of whom leaned on canes as they looked for their seats before the show started.

Manilow showed his age, moving stiffly and a little slowly, especially compared to his backup singers.

But his voice remained as strong as it was when he performed “Mandy” on Clive Davis’s “Midnight Special” show decades ago.

After a third change of jacket -- this time to white -- the congas and cowbell let everyone know it was time to get up on their feet.

“Her name was Lola,” he sang as everybody shimmied in their seats.

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