Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Are There Really People in the Trees???

The YBA Greek review. It took long enough, didn't it?

Nap time for the kids, Pete's at work, home and business chores are caught up, time to settle in with a new concert video. At first I swore up and down that I hadn't seen the Greek yet. My folks are constantly six steps behind on technology and entertainment so I couldn't remember if we even HAD HBO yet. What we had was a TV the size of a cabinet with a 3-button remote control that weighed about 2 pounds and the buttons made a heavy mechanical "click" to change a channel up or down or turn the power on and off. A cable remote involved a 10-meter cord attached to the cable box and a dial to change the channels. Our movie channel was a dinosaur called "Home Cinema" that showed movies after 3 PM. I reminisce on this as I am about to lose my DirecTV dish and have AT&T Uverse fiberoptic installed tomorrow. Do I feel old yet? Hmmmm. Nope, it's just fun to watch things change.

Speaking of change, what's great about watching Barry's videos, from the first TV specials, to the Greek to the made-for-MTV stuff to M&P is watching the evolution of concert production and technology, as well as the variation in fashion and other tastes. Barry is the same person, his earlier music is the same, so it's easier to separate the set list out and focus on comparing and contrasting all of the other elements.

So begins the stream of consciousness. I'm starting to approach all of my new video acquisitions as analytical projects. It's become more relaxing to actively engage mentally pulling the show apart than just sitting back and absorbing.

Yeah, this was the 70s. Unitards and capes that NO ONE could possibly look good in. The best I can say is that Lady Flash's costuming made The Leisure Suit look not quite so bad. (Checking the concert schedule on Ning Network.) Yes, there is a show on Halloween. Barry, I double-dog dare you to dig one of these outfits out for that show!

There were so many more "hits" Barry included in his show back then. I searched through the Code of Federal Regulations and there is not one line in any law that says that Barry's shows MUST open with "It's A Miracle". Yes, it's a great song, yes I love it, yes it does make for a great opener. But then again, so does, "Here We Go Again". It's one of several that I wouldn't complain about seeing live again.

Is it me, or did Barry sit at the piano more in this show than in current ones? It's probably just me because I'm watching for it. Although the performance of "New York City Rhythm" itself is just as good, the current rendition is better: the "piano race"is more interesting - and musically challenging, trying to play a part on the keyboard without stomping on each other - than whatever the hell Lady Flash is doing on the side.

As I said earlier, I could get used to hearing the full-length "Even Now" in a show. I understand the medley concept. Seriously. I also get that it's not a new thing unveiled in Vegas; Barry has been rearranging songs together since The Midnight Special. When I've seen other bands or musicians try to medley their hits together, it sucked. Most of them can't arrange their way out of a pay toilet. Barry's medleys make logical and musical sense, like he's created a new song out of parts of previous ones. But here's the thing: we don't listen to songs like that. We get into one at a time. The live show brings the additional intensity of actually watching the passion go into the performance as we're getting turned on listening to it, so the performer and audience become their own feedback loop. It's intense. So, while I understand medleys, enough already.

Speaking of medleys, we got to the 40s medley. :-) I wonder what ever happened to the Jive Hat? Or is that what Kye was wearing in First & Farewell? I never thought of these songs (at the time) as "period" pieces. It was just the music that Barry played and it was fun to listen to.

Here's where the deja vu kicked in. Before I thought I had never seen this HBO special. Then Barry gets to the line where he asks, "Are there really people in the trees?" Then swears and pretends to get flustered as he covers up the microphone after the fact. (Even with establishments like Studio 54 and Plato's Retreat, it was still very much a G-rated world and cable hadn't started broadening its standards on language or content.) All of a sudden, the memory came rushing back - I had watched this show live as it was broadcast! I wasn't allowed to go to concerts yet (I wasn't even 10 years old in the summer of '78) but a Barry Manilow TV special, even on cable, was OK and filled the void until I was a teenager and allowed to go into the city for a rock concert. Officially, the only special/TV show Barry made that I didn't see at its premiere was Swing Street; I was in college and even during the summer I was either working or taking a class. I didn't watch TV for almost four years.

Barry has said in so many interviews that it was ironic that he had become a performing icon because he never intended to be a stage performer and he hated pop music. But the irony goes further than that: Because he did the Top 40 tunes, I got interested in the other styles he managed to work in and was willing to give it a listen. If it was my folks or anyone else who tried to get me to listen to that style of music (or jazz, etc) I would have rolled my eyes and blown them off. But because Barry played it, I was willing to listen and learn something from it. I like to think there are a lot of us out there who started appreciating the music Barry loves because he first did the pop tunes. I wish there were more because then we'd hear more Mayflower and Paradise Cafe at live shows.

Pause. Dinner Time. To be continued....

1 comment:

  1. Love your perspective of that concert. I saw it for the first time about 2 years go (via a bootleg and I'm not saying from whom). It was never my favorite. Honestly, the early shows just don't move me like the latter ones. The music is there, but the maturity he brings to the table in the late 80's and beyond is what hooked me once and for all. My daughter was a casual fan, but guess what hooked her? When October Goes from Paradise Cafe. She heard all the pop songs growing up but when she heard that one, she was sold on his music.