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review added: 11/2/01



Manilow Live!
2000 (2000) - Image Entertainment

review by Dan Kelly of The Digital Bits

Enhanced for 16x9 TVsEncoded with DTS & Dolby Digital 5.1 Digital Surround

Manilow Live!

Film Rating: B-

Disc Ratings (Video/Extras): A-/C-

Audio Ratings (DD/DTS): B/B

Specs and Features

115 mins, NR, letterboxed widescreen (1.78:1), single-sided, RSDL dual-layered (layer switch at 1:06:20, at the start of chapter 15), keep case packaging, audio commentary by Barry Manilow, artist biography and discography, animated film-themed menu screens with sound, song access (24 chapters - see track listing below), languages: English (DD 4.0 and DTS 4.0), subtitles: none

"Tonight we're going to have an orgy!"

These are words I wish I'd never heard come from the mouth of Barry Manilow. But that's what he promises the hysterical women in his audience at the start of his show. This show is proof that some old legends never die. They just age right along with their core audience. Manilow Live was taped in Nashville in front of what has got to be the whitest group of people ever assembled in one place. The audience is brimming with (mostly) middle-aged women who sing along with each of Barry's hits and vie for the honor of going up on stage to sing Can't Smile Without You. His performance itself is fine and his voice hasn't seemed to age at all, but wow… has he always been this cheesy?

I grew up listening to Barry Manilow. His music was a staple in my house as a child, but maybe I was too young at the time to fully understand just how overdone his music is. His music was dismissed by a lot of critics as sentimental garbage, but his records were huge hits. By now, these songs must be second nature to him. He walks his way through many of them and barely breaks a sweat onstage. Though I run the risk of being stoned for admitting it, I still found myself idly singing along with some of the songs. Could It Be Magic (adapted from a Chopin piece and later disco-tized by Donna Summer) is one of his better songs, and he gets the show into full swing with this one. Mandy is another sing-along, and we even get a cut-away to an audience member mouthing "I love you" to Barry. Don't eat too much before you watch this one. And yes… he does do Copacabana.

Who knew ol' Barry was such a sensitive man? In a short 2-hour span, you'll see the many different moods of Manilow. He shows his wacky sense of humor when he pulls out his accordion for a performance of Daybreak like you've never heard it. Then he whips out his kazoo for a show-stopping rendition of Flight of the Bumblebee. He gets wistful and sentimental as he performs selections from his 1998 Frank Sinatra tribute album. Never has introspection been so obvious as it is during his translation of I Write the Songs (which, by the way, he didn't write). And the entire performance is peppered with sexual suggestion as he sends the women into a frenzy with the slightest swivel of his stiff hips. Though it may be easy to forget while watching this performance, Manilow was one of the most successful entertainers to emerge from the 1970's. Manilow Live shows you the cheese-meister in top form, singing many of his greatest hits just for you in the privacy of your own home (so you don't have to admit to anyone else that you like him).

Manilow Live was videotaped and processed for HDTV. The anamorphic image looks pretty spiffy, but as is common with many video processes, there's some color bleed. Instead of having a definite edge, many of the blues fade at the borders. But if you, like me, were too busy sniffling and sobbing along with Weekend in New England, you won't even notice. Outside of this, the picture is spotless! Black level and shadow detailing are dead on and flesh tones (and the pancake makeup that goes along with it) are perfect. Even problem areas like fog and smoke are handled quite nicely, without any artifacting or other forms of picture breakup. Barry Manilow hasn't looked this good since… we'll, he's never looked this good!

I'm a little miffed by the sound mixes. This DVD sports two separate 4.0 mixes: one in Dolby Digital and the other in DTS. I was barely able to distinguish between the two tracks, and the differences between them are so subtle that I wouldn't give the edge to either mix. What they are both lacking is a center channel. The mix is fine if you're going to turn off your television and pretend you're listening to a record, but you're not. This is a concert performance and a center channel for the vocals would really smooth out the mix some. The split surrounds come in quite handy on both tracks, and you'll be able to pinpoint directional effects for both audience reaction and different instrumentation. Though there's no dedicated LFE channel, bass response is adequate and gives just enough kick to the mix. Whether you prefer your Barry in Dolby Digital or DTS, either mix should make you happy.

If ever you wanted to call Barry a tease, now would be appropriate. This disc is really light on features. There's a running commentary by Mr. Manilow, but he takes very long pauses between segments. I'm talking long breaks. Like, so long that I forgot he was doing a commentary kind of long. It was good to hear Manilow admit just how much mileage he's gotten out of Copacabana. Not only was it a huge radio hit, it was also later turned into a television movie, then into a two-act stage production in England, and now a touring production here in the States. You'll hear about that, his devoted fans and a few other good things too. There's also a biography, but it reads a lot more like an ego stroke. Count his Grammy's, his Tony's, his gold and platimun records - that sort of stuff - but no mention of his days as a jingle writer for McDonald's. Lastly, there's a discography that documents his 25 years in the music biz, spread out over some 30 records. Not bad for a man who at one time worked the gay bath house circuit with Bette Midler.

Barry Manilow is an icon... an icon of schmaltz... that we don't have with today's entertainers. The closest thing we've got is Celine Dion, and she's in semi-retirement. Do you like schmaltz? If so, chances are you like Barry Manilow as well. Now that you can admit it, run out and grab yourself a copy of Manilow Live. So what if he comes across like the attention-starved uncle at family reunion? You know, the one that proves he's still hip by trying his hand at the latest dances only to make a fool of himself. But I bet your uncle never sang and played piano this well. And I'm sure your uncle didn't write the songs. Well, Barry did. He wrote them, and he wrote them for you. Now, go watch his DVD.

Dan Kelly
dankelly@thedigitalbits.com

Track Listing

Could It Be Magic?
Somewhere in the Night
Tryin' to Get the Feeling
Can't Smile Without You
Bandstand Boogie
Mandy
Even Now
Daybreak
Flight of the Bumblebee
All the Time
New York City Rhythm
Every Single Day
I Am Your Child
This One's for You
Sinatra Overture
Chicago (My Kind of Town)
That's Life
When October Goes
Weekend in New England
Copacabana
I Made It Through the Rain
One Voice/I Write the Songs
Stars in the Night




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