Anyone who can sell 24 million records must be doing something right. It was hard, though, to tell just what Barry Manilow was doing right at the Merriweather Post Pavilion last night. His singing was pleasant but underwhelming. His jokes were as corny as Oscar show cue cards. His lyrics were soap opera synopses. His melodies were as catchy and shallow as the ad jingles he used to write.
So what did he do to warrant the squeals and ovations last night? Basically, Manilow offered his audience music with absolutely safe feelings. When he sang about heartbreak, there was no pain, only a sadness that one could safely wallow in. When he sang about excitement, there was no danger that things would get out of hand. When he sang about the past, there was no sense of aging or loss, only safe nostalgia.
Given this appeal, it's no surprise that Manilow's live show closely resembled a TV special. The props looked like anything but the palm trees and street corners they were meant to be. Manilow changed in and out of numberless rhinestone-studded shirts. He was backed by a slick orchestra on one hand a local high school choir on the other as he sang all his hits from "Mandy" to "Copacabana." Just like Tv, there were no lapses in the fast-pace polish and no spontaneity.
Barry Manilow will be at the Pavilion through Friday.