Reprinted from yesterday's late editions
Early in his musical career, barry Manilow was a commercial performer - a performer of commercials, that is. One of the most successful of these was for a well-known fast-food chain that specializes in big hamburgers and french fries that are world famous.
When he graduated from ads to records, Manilow unfortunately did not discard the burger mentality of his past. His show is another slickly produced commercial, and this time the product he is selling is himself. His performance is cute and unobtrusive - nothing is presented that requires any thought, lest someone question the product.
Judging from the response of a capacity crowd at the Merriweather Post Pavilion Wednesday night, this approach works.
He switches from a matching blue outfit with a sequined vest and belt to a white costume that matches his sparkling teeth, and the hair is so tightly coiffed that it never moves. He strikes the right postures. His expressive face wrinkles itself into poses of love, tenderness, friendliness, impishness, all accompanied by a catchy stage patter that oozes a conscious "aw shucks" attitude.
Manilow's music is the perfect counterpart for the stage show. The blandness of the material is accented by melodic hooks that make the song sellable. That seems to be the point after all, to sell records. Music can take care of itself. The lyrics never rise above the level of an adolescent romanticism and the instrumental backgrounds are a monotonous blend of rock heaviness and pop gloppiness.
At the hands of performers such as Barry Manilow, the Great American Pop Song has been transformed from an entertainment to an industry. The concept of music as a marketable commodity is nothing new; however, the present, cynical attitude of music as a sort of fast-food opiate is a deplorable misinterpretation of musical enjoyment. American pop music certainly deserves a break today.