“I was the Justin Bieber of the ’70s,” Manilow half-joked.“Really. Just ask your mother.”
Despite not being totally recovered from the flu, Manilow did not have to reach for any of the multiple boxes of tissues by the foot of the stage.
Like Liberace before him, who would often joke about bad reviews by saying, “I’m crying…all the way to the bank,” Manilow is critic-proof thanks to his faithful following, which is made up mostly of women in their 50s and 60s. The New York Times noted that “time has inevitably diminished Mr. Manilow’s singing. High notes have disappeared, a certain unsteadiness has crept into his delivery, and his belting is no longer robust.” The New York Post was not quite as harsh, noting, “he sounded good enough.”
A Brooklyn native, Manilow, 69, got his start accompanying Bette Midler on piano at the legendary Continental Baths at Manhattan’s Ansonia Hotel in the early 1970s. He burst onto the pop scene later that decade while in his 30s, quite a bit older than Justin Bieber. He wrote popular commercial jingles for McDonald’s (“You deserve a break today…”), State Farm (“Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there…”), and Band-Aids (“I am stuck on Band-Aids ’cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me.”). He topped the charts with such songs as “Mandy,” “I Write the Songs,” and his signature tune, “Copacabana,” which earned him a 1979 Grammy for Best Pop Male Vocal Performance. He has won two Emmy Awards and was nominated for a Best Song Oscar for “Ready to Take a Chance Again” from the 1978 comedy Foul Play.
From February 2005 to December 30, 2009, he was the headliner at the Las Vegas Hilton, performing hundreds of shows before ending his relationship with the hotel. In March 2010, he headlined for two years at the Paris Hotel in Las Vegas. He has sold more than 80 million records worldwide. When he is not on tour, Manilow makes his home in Palm Springs, Calif.
Manilow on Broadway runs through March 2.