NBC will feature the legendary singer and songwriter in A Very Barry Christmas airing tonight
Barry Manilow played the “skinniest Santa you ever saw” (his words) as he delivered some Christmas magic at his final 2023 Las Vegas residency show at Westgate Las Vegas on Saturday (Dec 9th).
Opening with a Christmas-ified version of “It’s a Miracle,” Manilow emerged in a red tux jacket and black pants with sparkly stripes. What immediately struck this reporter was how far away from himself Manilow kept his microphone as he sang. My brain could not compute that this tiny man, who seemed to be barely opening his mouth, was making such a sound that could reach the microphone. Was he…gasp… lip-syncing?
The answer: OF COURSE NOT. That’s the sheer power of Barry Manilow’s voice. Recent press surrounding Manilow, who has an NBC Christmas special airing tonight (Mon, Dec 10th), usually contains the words “He sounds great for 80.” Wrong. Manilow sounds great for anyone at any age. One story reported that he can still hit the notes of his pop standards in their original key.
As if to make this point, He started “Mandy” with a nearly 50-year-old clip of the first verse on The Midnight Special. Spotlight up on Manilow at a similar white piano as in the clip, matching it note-perfect. Manilow’s vocal power earned him a standing ovation several times throughout the well-paced show. “Even Now,” complete with the high notes, brought down the house.
Like tonight’s television special, his holiday residency show was called “A Very Barry Christmas.” Renditions of Christmas classics like “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” and “White Christmas” were enthusiastically received. His interpretation of Joni Mitchell’s “The River” earned him yet another of those myriad standing ovations. Normally, when an artist who has such a deep catalog as Manilow decides to perform a Christmas-heavy set, it can be met with backlash. But the crowd had as much fun singing the carols as they did the classics. And he stuck a perfect balance between yuletide festiveness and giving the crowd what they wanted.
Manilow’s orchestra is tight and precise. Even though lyrics appeared on screen to some singalongs, it’s clear that there’s no need for a click track to keep this group in time. His background singers also stood out on the old jazzy Andrews Sisters/Bing Crosby arrangement of “Jingle Bells,” coming in with the “Jingle Bells, Ja-Jingle Bells” perfectly. It was classy–and classic Vegas–all the way.
Fitting for the showroom that changed Vegas into what it is today. The International Showroom at the Westgate is the legendary room where Elvis performed for 636 sold-out shows when the building was the Hotel Internationale, and later the Las Vegas Hilton. You can feel the history in that room. There’s a spot marked backstage that Elvis stood at before each show and touched the wall. Makes me wonder if Barry Manilow stands there and thinks of that legacy each night. One which he surpassed with his 637th International Showroom performance this year.
The show was short–a crisp 80 minutes–but any longer would have felt like overkill. Manilow got everything in, and a little more. The adage is that true entertainers “Leave them wanting more.” Manilow did just that. And–It’s a Miracle–The Fanilows in Vegas get more shows in 2024.