During a particularly neat moment of his concert Saturday night at SAP Center in San Jose on Saturday, Barry Manilow called Judy Garland the greatest entertainer of all time and went on to duet with her, via the magic of video, on “Zing! Went the Strings of My Heart.”
It’s probably not too big a statement to say that his comment about the late Garland echoed what his adoring crowd (filled with Fanilows, his admirers for four decades) was thinking about him.
Surprisingly, this “One Last Time” show wasn’t sad. Although Manilow, 71, has said this 2015 tour will be his last, he didn’t overplay a big farewell. He did what he always does: delivered a top-notch, thoroughly satisfying barrel of tunes, from the disco-tinged opening (“It’s a Miracle,” “Could It Be Magic”) to chart-topping, modulation-building hits starting with him seated at the piano and ending with him standing (“Even Now,” “Weekend in New England”) to sentimental album cuts (“I Am Your Child,” “All The Time”).
Ever affable and self-deprecating (calling himself a sex god), his banter perfectly accompanied the music. He introduced a jazzy version of “Brooklyn Blues,” which had a great sax solo by show opener Dave Koz, describing the iffy neighborhood where he grew up.
He reveled in music of his childhood with a similarly lush rendition of Glenn Miller’s “Moonlight Serenade” and invited an ecstatic fan onstage for a brief dance.
He even made a medley OK, sounding fabulous a cappella on “One Voice” and ending with an almost complete version of “I Write The Songs.” Snippets of the dozen or so cleverly arranged tunes (including “Ships,” “Ready to Take a Chance Again,” “Some Kind of Friend,” “Somewhere Down the Road,” “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling Again”) worked well, though this quibbling Fanilow would have preferred full versions of “Looks Like We Made It” and “This One’s For You.”
In a fun 1975 video clip of TV’s “The Midnight Special,” record mogul Clive Davis (responsible, in a way, for many of Manilow’s biggest hits) introduced “the newest star for America” singing “Mandy.”
Davis wasn’t wrong. Forty years later, Manilow — who said, “What a ride it’s been” — is still going strong.
He sang the rousing “Copacabana,” streamers fell, and a big red curtain closed. Stepping back into a single spotlight, he ended with the touching “Forever and a Day,” another nod to enduring fans.
And a thanks and coda from this faithful follower, who once didn’t sleep for three days, trying to win tickets to see you tape a TV special in 1978 in Los Angeles (or was it ’79?) when a radio station offered hourly giveaways. Though I never got the tickets, years later, I’m feeling like a winner: I still get to enjoy your singularly beautiful music.