Barry Manilow soared to the top of his craft early in his career with catchy melodies, winning showmanship and a voice that reminds us of the friendly fellow next door. At the top of his game 40 years later, he draws throngs wherever he performs. His tours this season focus on “15 Minutes,” his first original album in ten years.
The title alludes to the 15 minutes of fame Andy Warhol predicted everyone would enjoy in life. The concept, Manilow explains, was thoughtfully created over a two year period. His music and lyrics by Enoch Anderson envision a life haunted by the dream of fame. Their songs trace its pursuit by talented people besotted by fame's trappings but unable to cope with them.
The title song is driven by a guitar headed for glory. “Work the Room” and “Bring on Tomorrow” exude hope. “Now It's For Real” and “He's a Star” represent the pinnacle.
But when triumph is followed by a downward spiral, the despair is captured in “Who Needs You?” and “Winner Go Down.” Once the moment of self-acceptance is reached in “Train Wreck,” the victim realizes that fame can be recaptured by hard work. In many cases, it is. “Everything's Gonna Be All Right” is the exhilarating finale in which Manilow's syncopated vocal line vies with an inverse choral counterpoint. Sheer musical genius!
Manilow and Anderson have worked together for many years. When they began this project, they started with an idea, a story and a situation the character was in. They were writing about a fictitious character who goes through all the stages of fame, gets it, then blows it and begins again.
He confesses that the hardest song to write is a love song because there are only so many ways to say 'I love you.' While writing “15 Minutes,” he and Anderson focused on the story they were telling. Until he finished composing the music, Manilow had not realized that he had actually gone through all those phases. ”
“15 Minutes” is a dramatic story that could lend itself to a multi-media presentation, yet each song stands alone. At first hearing, one senses that at least half are destined for the top of the charts. Listeners of Clear Channel's “Radio Manilow” launched this past June on iHeartRadio.com have already heard the album and entered the contest asking “What would you do to become famous?” Sadly, many can not envision the down side of fame and the fright Manilow once experienced and relives in “Letter From A Fan.” He can not forget the terror that overcame him when a group of people came to his home and refused to leave until he called for security. That trauma is relived in the song.
Manilow's awful success as the Top Adult Contemporary Chart artist of all time has allowed him to inspire others. One honor was the invitation to perform at the 2010 Nobel Peace Prize ceremony in Oslo. The winner, Chinese dissident Liu Xiaobo was imprisoned in China, unable to be present. Manilow chose to perform “One Voice,” a song he wrote more than 30 years ago that resonates today. It recognizes the power of one person singing in the darkness, like Mr. Liu, to draw a groundswell of followers.
A major voice for arts and music in the schools, Manilow follows that philosophy in his own life. His Manilow Music Project raises funds and instrument contributions for needy schools and students. At each concert, he encourages audience members to scour their attics for instruments children can play.
As one of the largest draws in Las Vegas for many years, Manilow always enters the stage with the pleasant thought that he is coming out to greet his great friends and have a wonderful party.