Manilow singing old songs, creating new ones

Manilow

ATLANTA — For the past seven years, Barry Manilow’s life revolved around his Las Vegas residency, first at the former Las Vegas Hilton, and then for nearly two years at Paris Las Vegas.

In December, a day after wrapping his tenure on the Strip, he underwent hip surgery, a painful, complicated procedure from which he has recovered “about 90 percent.” Now, the mega-selling Manilow (80 million records worldwide and counting) is back on the road playing three dates every other weekend, enough, he says, to keep his band together and keep him fresh without sending him back to the operating room.

As for those Vegas years, he paused briefly when asked if he misses his regular gig.

“It was great. But do I miss it? It was fun and I don’t remember one bad show or moment. We would come off the stage and celebrate every night,” he said recently. “They had warned me that Vegas audiences would be different, but I never had one of them. We had beautiful shows in both casinos.”

Any chance of a return?

“When we were done at Paris, that was as good as I could do. We had put together a beautiful production. If I had gone to another (casino), I don’t think I could have topped that, so no ... I don’t think so at this point,” Manilow said.

The singer behind many of pop music’s timeless lite-pop classics — do we really need to name “Could It Be Magic,” “Mandy,” “Copacabana,” “I Write the Songs” or his other 42 Top 40 hits? — has an unusually robust catalog to draw from. But while those swoony gems are the core of his concerts, he’s still eager to write and create.

Last summer Manilow, 69, released “15 Minutes,” a concept album about a young musician who wants to be a star, finds that fame and then experiences the crests and indulgences that inevitably lead to a free fall.

It’s a sharp musical commentary on stardom and saturation in our media-obsessed times.

“Nick (Enoch) Anderson, my lyricist for many years, is a great storyteller, and he looked around and saw all of these entertainment shows going on, making stars out of young people overnight and you just count the moments until they wind up on TMZ,” Manilow said. “I thought it would be an interesting thing to write about because I’ve been down that road. No matter how mature you think you are, when this thing hits, it knocks you over. I was 29 (when I got famous). These kids are 15, 16, 19. How are they handling it? How is it not blowing them over?”

The closing song on “15 Minutes,” called “Everything’s Gonna Be All Right,” became a buzzed-about track on the U.K. version of his “Live in London” CD released here and overseas a few months ago. The song has been remixed and released as a U.S. single.

Manilow, though, is nothing if not a realist.

“How do you get a record on the radio these days? I don’t know,” he said. “But it’s a wonderful single, and I think it says something that people need to hear.”

Manilow is often confronted with a problem that he’s learned to manage over the years.

“There are so many offers out there all the time, but I say no to them because if I say yes, I dive in so deeply,” he said. “I learned commitment from Bette (Midler, his most famous boss from the ’70s), so I say no to most things because otherwise it’s going to consume me 24 hours a day until the project is over.”