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Concert Reviews:
Barry Manilow heats up a "cold, cold night" at the Palace

Digital First Media, @GraffonMusic

Posted: Monday, February 16, 2015

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AUBURN HILLS -- The last time Barry Manilow played at The Palace, he was late, delayed by a snowstorm that forced him to drive from Cleveland and arrive right around the time he was supposed to go on stage.

There was no such delay when he returned on Sunday, Feb. 15, as part of his One Last Time! tour, but it was still, as he noted, "a cold, cold night." "Next time," Manilow told the Palace crowd, "I'm coming in July!."

The exuberant Fanilows -- though their numbers had noticeably dwindled on Sunday -- will certainly come out whenever and wherever Manilow is. And as they constantly waved the green glow sticks handed out as they entered the building, the Palace crowd certainly felt that Manilow's hit-laden, tightly scripted 90-minute show rewarded them for braving the elements.

Forty years since he hit commercial pay dirt with "Mandy," Manilow -- purportedly on his "last big tour" -- remains a genuinely consummate showman, honed ever further by his recent Las Vegas residencies. Though his voice showed a bit of wear and tear from four shows in five nights on Sunday, the the 71-year-old Manilow was gracious and engaging and smooth as ever, and he delivered his most familiar schtick -- the bouncing-ball singalong to "Can't Smile Without You," inviting a fan to dance with him on stage during Glenn Miller's "Moonlight Serenade" and dueting on "Mandy" with his 1975 video self -- with convincing enthusiasm.

What makes Manilow's show work is that he's not afraid to give some of his songs, such as the opening couplet of "It's a Miracle" and "Could It Be Magic," a bit more sonic oomph than they had on record. Nor does he deliver a simple greatest hits show; on Sunday, in fact, he rolled through 15 of his biggest singles in jaw-dropping 15-minute "Gonzo Hits Medley," finishing with a choir accompanying him for a reprise of "I Write the Songs." Much of the show, meanwhile, rested on sophisticated album cuts such as the lively "Jump Shout Boogie," a medley of the Four Seasons' "Let's Hang On" and "Can't Take My Eyes Off of You" and a tightly scripted biographical section that included "Brooklyn Blues" (featuring a sax solo by opener Dave Koz), "I Am Your Child" and another medley, bookended by "Let's Dance!," that touched on Earth, Wind & Fire's "Boogie Wonderland," Donna Summer's "Hot Stuff" and Stevie Wonder's "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours."

There was nothing from Manilow's 2014 releases, the Grammy Award-nominated "Night Songs" and "My Favorite Duets," but that there were certainly no complaints from an audience who was happy enough to hear "Weekend in New England," "Even Now" and "I Made It Through the Rain," anyway. Nor were the Fanilows disappointed there was no encore; after all, "Copacabana (At the Copa)," with a reprise of "It's a Miracle" and an explosion of streamers at the end, was a hot enough finale to propel everyone back into the "cold, cold night."

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