MANILA, OCTOBER 6, 2008 (STAR) PURPLE SHADES By Letty Jacinto-Lopez - Find out who was Barry Manilow’s cosmetic surgeon because I’d like to shoot him,” said my friend. “He’s gay,” said another. Such remarks did not dissuade me from watching Barry Manilow, live at the Las Vegas Hilton.

Barry’s music came into my life when I had just gotten over a college romance and was discovering the exciting world of the working woman. When he sang, Tryin’ to Get the Feeling (“Doctor, my woman is coming back home, could you maybe give me something…before she sees that I’ve been up, down.…”), I imagined what it would be like to be at the receiving end of this song. Heart-wrenching, I was sure, with tears to drive anyone insane. But then he also sang I Made it Through the Rain, which encourages anyone to see past the heartbreak.

Our tickets were third row from the stage, close enough to catch him blink. When I collected the tickets, I swear there was no one who looked a day younger than 50.

Okay, we’re from the booming 1960s, when rock and roll was hip and lyrics were simple and repetitive. One could actually understand every word that was sang. There was respect for the written word and true feelings were tucked into the melody. And the bonus? The tunesmith made each song humable, sing-along-able, torch-bear-able, and dance-able.

I sat next to Sandy, a lady from Chicago. When I told her I came from Manila, she exclaimed, “Oh my, you flew a greater distance than me.”

“What’s your favorite song?” I asked. Sandy replied, “Whatever makes me smile and if it brings back good memories, that’s my favorite.” (Mine are Weekend in New England, Even Now and This One’s for You).

When the lights went down, the stage was set ablaze with lights and I felt the rise of pulsating energy. Soon, the audience members were stomping their feet and clapping. The strobe lights carried a disco tempo that made the audience sway and move to the beat.

The orchestra played the overture of It’s a Miracle and smoke billowed onstage. Before anyone could react, Barry was onstage, arms outstretched with his mini-skirted backup singers pointing at the crowd, dancing and singing: “The miracle is YOU!”

“Hello, Las Vegas !” Barry hollered and the audience gave a long, frenzied cheer.

The show was dubbed “Music and Passion” and Barry explained, “Music and passion was the story of my life and the story of Las Vegas, for that matter.” Turning to the audience, he asked, “We have the music…do you have the passion?”

He quickly broke into a song, Sing it to the World combined with Daybreak (“It’s daybreak and it’s good to believe…shine, shine all around the world”). The audience rose and he switched to a medley of love ballads, You’re my Song (“Music to my gypsy wind, I’ll play you over and over again”) mixed with This One’s for You (“This song will never sell, they’ll never understand….”)

The backdrop changed and a giant screen played a video of an old variety show showing Barry in the early ‘70s being dubbed as the “Newest star in America.” Barry was wearing an outrageous beaded jacket — tacky as thumbtacks — as he sang his first hit, Mandy.

Next to me, Sandra was nodding her head, singing. I looked around and several ladies were swaying their heads in unison.

Barry acknowledged his grandfather, a Russian immigrant, who was the first person to see his potential. His grandfather paid 25 cents for Barry to record his own voice. That set off the young Barry — from Brooklyn, New York — to dream of a musical career. When Barry opened at the Carnegie Hall, his grandfather made a big scene by standing up and clapping for Barry even before he sang; the audience automatically followed and that’s how Barry got his first standing ovation.

Barry then sang a medley to define each decade: The big bands and the romantic crooners of the ‘50s, the Yeah-yeah-yeah songs of the Beatles of the ‘60s, the blended voices and movie themes of the ‘70s, and so on. Barry’s four decades in music included a stint as the pianist and musical director of Bette Midler. (The “Divine M” also now appears in Las Vegas).

Before long, the theater was transformed into a nightclub with a moving platform that rose above our heads, complete with hydraulic stairs. When Barry ascended the steps with his backup singers clad in ostrich feathers, the confetti rained down on us and everybody chorused, “Her name was Lola, she was a showgirl at the Copa…Copacobanaaaah.”

Manilow’s fans — called “Fanilows” — squealed with delight.

Forget his horrible sequined jackets and the fact that he can’t dance; otherwise, looks like he made it…and that’s another hit song by Barry.

Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

All rights reserved