Appearing tired and nursing a sore throat that was evident on some songs more than on others, Barry Manilow was disconnected from his enthusiastic audience at the near-full Greek, failing to recapture the magical spirit abundant at his winning Universal Amphitheatre appearance last year.
Following taped intermission music that mixed some of his best-known commercial jingles (McDonalds, Pepsi, etc.) with contemporary dance and techno songs, Manilow, 53, hit the stage all smiles in sharp black slacks and shirt and a white dinner jacket.
While the evening’s two-hour program did pleasantly veer from romantic pop ballads and jazz standards to raving disco nuggets and raucous show tunes, the man’s mood was churlish, and his timing rushed and overly rehearsed, casting a dim pall over what should have been a big party.
“Can’t Smile Without You,” Manilow’s 1978 hit, was dedicated to “all my dentists,” whose apparent handiwork resulted in a series of rough-around-the-edges performances. “Can’t Smile” also featured a guest from the audience — a thrilled young lady named Paige — whom Manilow shoved into his lap, followed by a crude and unfunny joke at her expense.
Manilow was most effective when seated at his piano playing and singing one of his signature love songs, like the otherwise sappy “Mandy,” his 1974 debut hit single, and a pretty, late-set version of 1976’s “Weekend in New England.”
But much of the rest of the show was a standup, Sinatra-style performance, with the stiff Manilow attempting with little success to re-create his hero’s style on such numbers as “That’s Life” or “All the Way,” not to mention those found on his “Manilow Sings Sinatra” album.
Highlight of the show may have been when Manilow and two keyboard players from the band joined him in a tag-team performance of a classical piece by Grieg. Lowlight (just beating out “Copacabana”) came when a tape of 3-year-old Manilow being forced to sing “Happy Birthday” by his grandfather was interspersed in a bloated version of “This One’s For You.”
Manilow ends his current tour Sept. 26 in San Jose, then performs at a private Millennium engagement at the Foxwoods Casino in Connecticut on New Year’s Eve. U.K. dates follow in January.