This One’s for Her: An Evening With Barry Manilow


My wife and I have many things in common, but our musical tastes diverge more widely than our interests in any other medium. Most musical acts that bother to include Indianapolis in their tours are so far off her radar that, until last night, she’d never been to a full-fledged capital-C Concert by a nationally famous musical act. My own concert history has been intermittent over the years (still kicking myself for skipping Social Distortion when they were in town last year), but I get out there every so often.

Then I found out Barry Manilow was coming to Indy, one of the big names on Anne’s list since childhood. As I said: divergent tastes. But I’m her husband and I love her thiiiiiiiis much and not all outings need to be about me me me. Also, my mom used to listen to local AM radio all the time when I was a kid, so it’s not as though he’s an utter stranger to me. So I cashed in all my internet cred, exchanged it for Good Husband points, and took the woman I love to her first concert, because that’s the kind of off-the-wall thing a happy, blessed marriage inspires a guy to do.

Doors opened at 6:30; show started right on time at 7:30. We didn’t know there’d be an opening act, but he was more than fine. Anne had heard of Dave Koz, but he was news to me. He’s a renowned “smooth jazz” saxophonist, which for me conjures images of Kenny G and memories of grocery store Muzak and the kind of low-blood-pressure material that prompts me to switch to other SiriusXM stations lest I fall asleep at the wheel. Not so Koz; this night he was loud, bold, peppy, occasionally silly (“I know what you’re thinking: ‘Who’s that man and where’s Barry?'”), and better than every opening act I’ve seen at any other concert in my life. Small basis for comparison on my part, but still.

Dave Koz!

The Dave Koz 35-minute setlist, to the best of our limited knowledge:

1. no idea
2. “Honey-Dipped”
3. “Got to Get You Into My Life” (Beatles/Earth, Wind & Fire cover)
4. Adele Dazeem’s “Let It Go”
5. no idea, but sounded familiar
6. Medley: “That’s the Way (I Like It)”, “Sir Duke”, “Dance to the Music”, et al.

Around 8:30…out came Barry. The man. The myth. The MANILOW.

Barry Manilow!

We weren’t in the floor seats up front, but thanks to our tax check, we weren’t in the upper-echelon nosebleed section, either. More like the middle-echelon mild-lightheadedness section. We tried to capture a few fleeting images in the darkness for posterity and scrapbooking.

Barry Manilow!

The older ladies were definitely in the house last night, several of whom brought dates in tow. We sat next to one husband-‘n’-wife who drove two hours from Logansport just so the wife could see him, and then he had to drive them home and be up at 3:45 a.m. to come right back to Indianapolis for his job. In the “good husband” department, he totally had me beat.

Barry Manilow!

Elsewhere at the show was a coworker of a coworker of mine who’s seen Barry live several times. I heard from her today that he wasn’t moving as quickly as he used to in the good ol’ days. Perhaps he was a dancing, leaping, manic fireball back then. I wouldn’t know, but he didn’t exactly strike me as inert or in need of propping up. He glided from one end of the stage to the other, serenading front-row fans, hanging out with his band and his backup singers, and at one point inviting a preschool teacher from the audience onstage for a dance. He held his own.

He also took time to plug a cause near ‘n’ dear to his heart, the Manilow Music Project, a support charity to assist school music programs in a time when they’re being defunded and discontinued left and right. Manilow grew up in Brooklyn and credits his school’s music classes for changing his life, and he’d dearly love to do the same for others.

Barry Manilow!

In the absence of lighters, and for any oldsters without smartphones, upon our entrance Bankers Life Fieldhouse had reps cheerily handing out free glowsticks to any and all. Fun times in a packed house.

Free Glowsticks!

Barry’s setlist:

It’s a Miracle
Somewhere in the Night
Can’t Smile Without You
Looks Like We Made It
Could It Be Magic
Brooklyn Blues
I Am Your Child
Even Now
Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart (duet with a vintage clip of Judy Garland)
Weekend in New England
Hang On (Frankie Valli/Four Seasons cover)
I Made It Through the Rain
Mandy (duet with a 1975 clip of himself on The Midnight Special variety show)

…followed by a nonstop medley that flowed all the way to the grand finale:

The Old Songs
Bandstand Boogie
Jump Shout Boogie
New York City Rhythm
Some Kind of Friend
Read ’em and Weep
This One’s for You
Tryin’ to Get That Feeling Again
Ready to Take a Chance Again
I Write the Songs
It’s a Miracle (reprise)

Based on what I’ve seen of a set list from another recent show, little changes were made from one venue to the next. Ours omitted “Somewhere Down the Road”, “One Voice”, and “Memory”, but added “Hang On” and “Jump Shout Boogie”. Keeps the show fresh for the performers and any diehard fans following along with the tour, I imagine.

And of course, that finale, before which Barry shouts, “WE CAN’T GO WITHOUT THIS ONE!”


…pulling out the stops with a free mass of kaleidoscopic streamers for the front section. I’m guessing all of this is what vacations to Vegas and Branson look like. Someday for us, perhaps.


Barry wrapped up shortly before 10, leaving me to walk back to our car through a light drizzle while Anne floated on air the entire way home. Her condition continued well into the following work day, where her coworkers were a little less patient and endeared with her crooning of Barry’s greatest hits than I’ve been.

She came away from the experience with a new milestone on her books, a new appreciation for extravagant live music, a new T-shirt, a new twinkle in her eye the size of a klieg light, and thankfully neither tinnitus nor laryngitis, though the latter was a close call.

As for me, I got the satisfaction of a good deed done well, a broader definition of the upper reaches of “smooth jazz”, some light nostalgia for AM radio, fun choruses stuck in my head all the next day, and an unused glowstick I can maybe bring with me when I go see Bloc Party live at the end of May. And, y’know, my wife’s smile.

8 responses

  1. This is really sweet! And it actually looks really fun. I don’t listen to him but I also remember him from my Mom’s musical tastes growing up. She use to play his tapes and with that in mind and knowing enough songs I don’t think I’d actually mind going with somebody if they were into his music.
    Gotta say your wife is beaming in that picture too-she must’ve been so excited before the show!

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’d just bought the tickets Monday night, but she was all abeam from that moment onward. She kicked off Tuesday morning at work with “Copacabana” with zero appreciation from her still-groggy audience. Poor philistines.

      Given that many of my concert experiences have been me attending shows alone and vastly outnumbered by couples and groups (sometimes getting more than a little moody by the night’s end, tbh), it was a very nice change of pace to be with someone. My unfamiliarity with his catalog didn’t matter so much to me once she started getting into it, Excitement is my favorite kind of contagion. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Barry is a special kind of performer. It seems like he either really wants to be up there and putting everything he’s got into entertaining the crowd or he’s gotten darn good at pretending. Either way, I love when an artist can entertain like that and doesn’t act like they’re being dragged up on stage and their bored to death.
        Another one I haven’t seen but have a lot of respect for in that regard is Neil Diamond. Especially after finding out he’s always worn those flashy, sparkly shirts so that the people all the way in the back can see him better on stage.


        • I’ve never heard that story, but it makes sense. Neil is another guy, like Barry, that I remember being on AM radio all the time when I was a kid, but became kind of a punchline over time. Weird and sad how that goes sometimes, though he sure has his hardcore fans, too.

          Unhappy, labored musical acts are definitely a chore to sit through. I’ve never seen that attitude in older artists, but I felt it at the very first concert I ever attended. In 1992 I saw Faith No More as the opening act at a huge event, where they gave us what felt like 45 minutes of clocking in, not talking between songs, and just rocking the bare minimum to get by till they could leave and go cash their paychecks. That’s definitely not the Barry way.


          • I don’t want to say every band was this way in 1992 but I do associate an “I don’t care” and “I’m too cool” (or maybe it’s too cool to care) vibe from a lot of bands & artists that were big or debuted around then. When I was younger I kind of bought into that too like those artists had so much integrity because they just did what they felt like or something…I don’t know. Now, I think it’s much cooler to show that you care and put on the entertainment that people paid to see. The Barry way!


    • Full disclosure: I posted only our least unflattering pics of him. At other angles, you could see large differences between Then and Now, especially during his duet with 1975 Talk Show Barry. But I was surprised to learn he’s only 72. He’s been part of the pop culture landscape for so long that I honestly thought he was much older.


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