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Moments with a Legend.

  • Moments with a Legend.

    Two days have passed since we shared the stage with Barry Manilow and I don't quite know how to sum up the experience.  It went by so fast that parts of the performance are blurrier than others, but I'll always remember our time with him at sound check and backstage after his concert at Boardwalk Hall here in Atlantic City.  More on that soon, though...

     

    Our (fantastic) management agency, Stiletto Entertainment, has represented Barry for years.  By "years" I mean decades.  To put this into perspective, my Dad owns a comically oversized, grooved, shiny, black CD of Barry Manilow's from the mid-70s that has Stiletto's CEO's name in the liner notes.  

     

    Me, pointing at the back cover:  "Hey, I know that guy!"

     

    My Dad:  "Be careful not to scratch the vinyl."

     

    Me:  "What's a vinyl?"

     

    My Dad:  (blank stare)

     

    We had the honor of opening for Barry at The Hollywood Bowl in California earlier this spring, but we didn't have the opportunity to meet him personally then.  We were escorted here, corralled there, and shuffled about the entire evening by the production crew at the venue, so there wasn't time, let alone an opportunity, to thank him personally for letting us be a part of his show.  A couple days after the performance, we heard from our manager that Barry enjoyed what he heard from us and wanted us to open for him at some arena shows he had lined up for the fall.  Pretty cool to say the least, right?  We had to graciously decline the invitation, however, because we had shows of our own at that time (good problem to have), but it was great to know that there was interest on his behalf to work with us again.  We remained hopeful that our paths would cross again soon...

     

    A little bit of history for those just joining in:  while we were recording "With a Twist" last summer in Bloomington, Barry came up with the idea of collaborating with us on his song "One Voice," which he wrote and released on the album of the same name in 1979.  Read that again.  This songwriting and performing legend had the idea - himself - to record a song together with us; not our management agency, not Atlantic Records, not my Mom, who often leaves me messages on my voice mail with song suggestions that she hears while listening to Satellite Radio on a road trip (Hi, Mom, keep 'em coming).  That particular album went double-platinum, by the way, which means it sold over two million copies when it was released.  No pressure there at all.  

     

    I recall studio sessions being put on pause now and then last summer when our co-producer Deke would get a call from Barry to discuss the vocal arrangement he was spearheading (and Deke was assisting with).  Deke would shoot up from his seat next to the mixing board, put in his earpiece, and walk briskly out the door of the studio, being trailed by ten guys eager to hear what was being discussed (well, maybe six guys; I'm sure the other four were using the opportunity to get in a quick round of Cornhole and enjoy a cold adult beverage in the beautiful Indiana sunshine).  

     

    Months passed and, lo and behold, we find ourselves in a residency here in Atlantic City (did I mention our management agency is fantastic?).  Word on the street was that Barry would be performing a one-night-only show at the famed Boardwalk Hall downtown while we were performing our show at Harrah's.  "I wonder if we could work something out together while he's in town?" became the question on our minds.  Our manager was in town one weekend and he sat us down to tell us that Barry wanted us to be part of this upcoming concert.  This time, however, we wouldn't be opening for him; rather, we'd perform "One Voice" with him during the concert (this is the point in the blog where you should imagine us looking around at each other, eyebrows raised, semi-floored, mouthing "Wow" and "That's crazy" around the room...).  Opening for Barry was one thing; performing onstage with him was going to be uncharted territory for us.  Heck, we hadn't even met him yet.

     

    Flash forward to the day of sound check at Boardwalk Hall:  last Friday, which as you recall was the 13th.  We're not really a superstitious group of guys, but suffice it to say there were some nerves going around that day.  We had spent the previous three days rehearsing Barry's arrangement of "One Voice," which we hadn't seen in nearly a year (a minor detail).  Guys were reviewing the sheet music on our way over to the venue, while others listened to the tune on their iPods and hummed along.  Oh, another minor detail about this particular arrangement:  Barry arranged for each of us to have our own individual part in the song (we're normally used to 5-6 parts on a song).  Again, no pressure whatsoever.

     

    We arrived at the venue, exited the van clown-car-style, and were escorted to the side of the stage where Barry's sound techs handed us our wireless packs and microphones.  Barry was onstage talking with his musical director and choreographer, giving them direction and pointing out specific points in the show he wanted to review with his band and singers.  His band, for the record, was a world-class orchestra.  It became apparent very quickly to us that this man exemplified (and exemplifies) the word "perfectionist."  You don't sell 80+ million albums by just winging it, after all.  

     

    While waiting offstage, I asked Randy, "What are we supposed to call him?  Barry?  Mr. Manilow?"  Randy replied with "Whatever he wants us to call him."  To our relief, "Barry" was enough for Barry.

     

    Having been told by his production manager that we were on-site and ready to rehearse with him, Barry turned to us, and spoke, "Hey, guys!  Come on up," into his mic.  We scurried out onto the stage, where Barry greeted us each with an individual handshake, direct eye contact, warm smile, and a "Nice to meet you."  Instantly, we were put at ease.  We joined Barry around the piano and he talked with us about how he wanted to run the song.  It was a collaborative discussion and never felt like we were receiving orders from him.  What was great about that initial meeting with Barry was, by just being himself, he made us forget about the multitude of awards he's won, millions of albums he's sold, and plethora of hit songs he's written over the past 40 years.  

     

    We ran the song once with him and he made tweaks here and there with us afterwards, mostly to make sure our in-ear monitors were picking everything up well enough and to get us blocked onstage the way he wanted us.  He had his choreographer stand in his spot at center stage, stepped out, looked at the picture in front of him, shifted his weight as if to get another look at our positions, told his choreographer to switch with him to take a look and show him another idea, and repeated this process two or three times.  Each time, Barry would stand in front of us and say something like "I don't know, this doesn't look friendly enough to me.  I want to see friends."  At one point, Barry put his arm around Walt's shoulder and told his choreographer, "I want this, not them just looking at me singing.  This song needs to feel and look like we're all friends up here."  His choreographer shifted us around until our positioning felt "friends" enough to Barry and, sure enough, we felt like friends with him.  He wasn't a superstar you dare not approach, he was Barry, and we were working on a song together as musicians and as close of friends as guys can be with someone they've worked with for a year but never met.  That was that, let's run it again, shall we?

     

    We ran the song once more with Barry, who smiled afterwards and said, "It's going to be great tomorrow night."  We knew we had more rehearsal on our end of things between then and the show, but we believed him.  

     

    Saturday was mostly quiet during the day and we rehearsed once more with Barry that afternoon before our show that night at Harrah's.  Rehearsal mostly consisted of us perfecting "One Voice" and the staging for his closer "It's a Miracle," which we would be onstage for, singing along, trying as much as possible not to screw up.  

     

    That night while waiting for the van to pick us up after our concert and take us to Barry's venue, Dan and I mused in the green room that that was the first show in nearly three years that we didn't follow with a meet-and-greet.  It felt slightly awkward not to step offstage after our show and sign CDs, take pictures, and shake hands with our fans.  We had to get over to Barry's venue, though, as soon as possible, which our audience (hopefully) understood.

     

    We repeated the process of piling into and tumbling out of our van, getting escorted to get our gear, and waiting anxiously backstage, where we were told to stay put until we were told to move.  Hurry up and wait, basically.  The first thing we saw at the venue were 12,000 red glow-sticks waving back and forth behind a giant video screen of Barry singing onstage.  The guy was in his element and was killing his set.  The crowd roared after each song and sang every word along with him.  It was time for us to move into positions on both sides of the stage, so we circled up, said some words about how much we'd remember this moment, said a quick prayer, and went to work.  Before taking the stage, I remember thanking Randy and Walt (who shared stage-right with me, Tyler, and Mike) jokingly for letting me in the group long ago.  Tyler asked me if I thought "Copacabana (was) Barry's "12 Days of Christmas.""  I didn't have time to answer.  The next seven minutes flashed by and the next thing I knew, the stage-left guys were bounding our way, jumping around, exchanging hugs, high-fives, and "Man, that was awesome"s.  It was.  We'll always remember it, just like we said we would.

     

    The coolest part of the night, though, was talking with Barry after the show.  We were escorted outside his dressing room and we got a couple pictures with him that will end up on here soon, I'm sure.  I recall he told Korby (our tour manager and sound tech) to "take another one" because he didn't see the flash pop up on Korby's camera, which just made him even more of a normal person to me.  He asked us when he could catch our show, to which we replied "Name the date!"  Our people are going to talk to his people, which works out great because they're the same people.

     

    Author's note:  a minor ninth chord, which you will read about in 7 seconds, is a harmonically complex group of notes that sounds really cool when sung together.  Just a heads-up for the less musically-inclined (Dad...).  

     

    The quote of the night went to Barry when he pulled us aside after the last picture was taken and imparted, "Listen, guys, you can sing as many minor ninth chords as you want, but people don't care about that at all.  What they want to see up there are friends."  I'll always remember that.  We walked away asking each other if we could believe what we had just heard, hopped back into our 15-passenger van, and celebrated back at Harrah's with our crew.

     

    I'm not a betting person (despite having dwelt in a casino for the past two months), but I'd venture to say that Saturday isn't the last time we'll be working with Barry.  Until then, whenever "then" is, stay tuned and thanks as always for stopping by.

     

    - Ryan

     

Ryan_5's picture
on August 16, 2010 - 7:59pm

Two days have passed since we shared the stage with Barry Manilow and I don't quite know how to sum up the experience.  It went by so fast that parts of the performance are blurrier than others, but I'll always remember our time with him at sound check and backstage after his concert at Boardwalk Hall here in Atlantic City.  More on that soon, though...

 

Our (fantastic) management agency, Stiletto Entertainment, has represented Barry for years.  By "years" I mean decades.  To put this into perspective, my Dad owns a comically oversized, grooved, shiny, black CD of Barry Manilow's from the mid-70s that has Stiletto's CEO's name in the liner notes.  

 

Me, pointing at the back cover:  "Hey, I know that guy!"

 

My Dad:  "Be careful not to scratch the vinyl."

 

Me:  "What's a vinyl?"

 

My Dad:  (blank stare)

 

We had the honor of opening for Barry at The Hollywood Bowl in California earlier this spring, but we didn't have the opportunity to meet him personally then.  We were escorted here, corralled there, and shuffled about the entire evening by the production crew at the venue, so there wasn't time, let alone an opportunity, to thank him personally for letting us be a part of his show.  A couple days after the performance, we heard from our manager that Barry enjoyed what he heard from us and wanted us to open for him at some arena shows he had lined up for the fall.  Pretty cool to say the least, right?  We had to graciously decline the invitation, however, because we had shows of our own at that time (good problem to have), but it was great to know that there was interest on his behalf to work with us again.  We remained hopeful that our paths would cross again soon...

 

A little bit of history for those just joining in:  while we were recording "With a Twist" last summer in Bloomington, Barry came up with the idea of collaborating with us on his song "One Voice," which he wrote and released on the album of the same name in 1979.  Read that again.  This songwriting and performing legend had the idea - himself - to record a song together with us; not our management agency, not Atlantic Records, not my Mom, who often leaves me messages on my voice mail with song suggestions that she hears while listening to Satellite Radio on a road trip (Hi, Mom, keep 'em coming).  That particular album went double-platinum, by the way, which means it sold over two million copies when it was released.  No pressure there at all.  

 

I recall studio sessions being put on pause now and then last summer when our co-producer Deke would get a call from Barry to discuss the vocal arrangement he was spearheading (and Deke was assisting with).  Deke would shoot up from his seat next to the mixing board, put in his earpiece, and walk briskly out the door of the studio, being trailed by ten guys eager to hear what was being discussed (well, maybe six guys; I'm sure the other four were using the opportunity to get in a quick round of Cornhole and enjoy a cold adult beverage in the beautiful Indiana sunshine).  

 

Months passed and, lo and behold, we find ourselves in a residency here in Atlantic City (did I mention our management agency is fantastic?).  Word on the street was that Barry would be performing a one-night-only show at the famed Boardwalk Hall downtown while we were performing our show at Harrah's.  "I wonder if we could work something out together while he's in town?" became the question on our minds.  Our manager was in town one weekend and he sat us down to tell us that Barry wanted us to be part of this upcoming concert.  This time, however, we wouldn't be opening for him; rather, we'd perform "One Voice" with him during the concert (this is the point in the blog where you should imagine us looking around at each other, eyebrows raised, semi-floored, mouthing "Wow" and "That's crazy" around the room...).  Opening for Barry was one thing; performing onstage with him was going to be uncharted territory for us.  Heck, we hadn't even met him yet.

 

Flash forward to the day of sound check at Boardwalk Hall:  last Friday, which as you recall was the 13th.  We're not really a superstitious group of guys, but suffice it to say there were some nerves going around that day.  We had spent the previous three days rehearsing Barry's arrangement of "One Voice," which we hadn't seen in nearly a year (a minor detail).  Guys were reviewing the sheet music on our way over to the venue, while others listened to the tune on their iPods and hummed along.  Oh, another minor detail about this particular arrangement:  Barry arranged for each of us to have our own individual part in the song (we're normally used to 5-6 parts on a song).  Again, no pressure whatsoever.

 

We arrived at the venue, exited the van clown-car-style, and were escorted to the side of the stage where Barry's sound techs handed us our wireless packs and microphones.  Barry was onstage talking with his musical director and choreographer, giving them direction and pointing out specific points in the show he wanted to review with his band and singers.  His band, for the record, was a world-class orchestra.  It became apparent very quickly to us that this man exemplified (and exemplifies) the word "perfectionist."  You don't sell 80+ million albums by just winging it, after all.  

 

While waiting offstage, I asked Randy, "What are we supposed to call him?  Barry?  Mr. Manilow?"  Randy replied with "Whatever he wants us to call him."  To our relief, "Barry" was enough for Barry.

 

Having been told by his production manager that we were on-site and ready to rehearse with him, Barry turned to us, and spoke, "Hey, guys!  Come on up," into his mic.  We scurried out onto the stage, where Barry greeted us each with an individual handshake, direct eye contact, warm smile, and a "Nice to meet you."  Instantly, we were put at ease.  We joined Barry around the piano and he talked with us about how he wanted to run the song.  It was a collaborative discussion and never felt like we were receiving orders from him.  What was great about that initial meeting with Barry was, by just being himself, he made us forget about the multitude of awards he's won, millions of albums he's sold, and plethora of hit songs he's written over the past 40 years.  

 

We ran the song once with him and he made tweaks here and there with us afterwards, mostly to make sure our in-ear monitors were picking everything up well enough and to get us blocked onstage the way he wanted us.  He had his choreographer stand in his spot at center stage, stepped out, looked at the picture in front of him, shifted his weight as if to get another look at our positions, told his choreographer to switch with him to take a look and show him another idea, and repeated this process two or three times.  Each time, Barry would stand in front of us and say something like "I don't know, this doesn't look friendly enough to me.  I want to see friends."  At one point, Barry put his arm around Walt's shoulder and told his choreographer, "I want this, not them just looking at me singing.  This song needs to feel and look like we're all friends up here."  His choreographer shifted us around until our positioning felt "friends" enough to Barry and, sure enough, we felt like friends with him.  He wasn't a superstar you dare not approach, he was Barry, and we were working on a song together as musicians and as close of friends as guys can be with someone they've worked with for a year but never met.  That was that, let's run it again, shall we?

 

We ran the song once more with Barry, who smiled afterwards and said, "It's going to be great tomorrow night."  We knew we had more rehearsal on our end of things between then and the show, but we believed him.  

 

Saturday was mostly quiet during the day and we rehearsed once more with Barry that afternoon before our show that night at Harrah's.  Rehearsal mostly consisted of us perfecting "One Voice" and the staging for his closer "It's a Miracle," which we would be onstage for, singing along, trying as much as possible not to screw up.  

 

That night while waiting for the van to pick us up after our concert and take us to Barry's venue, Dan and I mused in the green room that that was the first show in nearly three years that we didn't follow with a meet-and-greet.  It felt slightly awkward not to step offstage after our show and sign CDs, take pictures, and shake hands with our fans.  We had to get over to Barry's venue, though, as soon as possible, which our audience (hopefully) understood.

 

We repeated the process of piling into and tumbling out of our van, getting escorted to get our gear, and waiting anxiously backstage, where we were told to stay put until we were told to move.  Hurry up and wait, basically.  The first thing we saw at the venue were 12,000 red glow-sticks waving back and forth behind a giant video screen of Barry singing onstage.  The guy was in his element and was killing his set.  The crowd roared after each song and sang every word along with him.  It was time for us to move into positions on both sides of the stage, so we circled up, said some words about how much we'd remember this moment, said a quick prayer, and went to work.  Before taking the stage, I remember thanking Randy and Walt (who shared stage-right with me, Tyler, and Mike) jokingly for letting me in the group long ago.  Tyler asked me if I thought "Copacabana (was) Barry's "12 Days of Christmas.""  I didn't have time to answer.  The next seven minutes flashed by and the next thing I knew, the stage-left guys were bounding our way, jumping around, exchanging hugs, high-fives, and "Man, that was awesome"s.  It was.  We'll always remember it, just like we said we would.

 

The coolest part of the night, though, was talking with Barry after the show.  We were escorted outside his dressing room and we got a couple pictures with him that will end up on here soon, I'm sure.  I recall he told Korby (our tour manager and sound tech) to "take another one" because he didn't see the flash pop up on Korby's camera, which just made him even more of a normal person to me.  He asked us when he could catch our show, to which we replied "Name the date!"  Our people are going to talk to his people, which works out great because they're the same people.

 

Author's note:  a minor ninth chord, which you will read about in 7 seconds, is a harmonically complex group of notes that sounds really cool when sung together.  Just a heads-up for the less musically-inclined (Dad...).  

 

The quote of the night went to Barry when he pulled us aside after the last picture was taken and imparted, "Listen, guys, you can sing as many minor ninth chords as you want, but people don't care about that at all.  What they want to see up there are friends."  I'll always remember that.  We walked away asking each other if we could believe what we had just heard, hopped back into our 15-passenger van, and celebrated back at Harrah's with our crew.

 

I'm not a betting person (despite having dwelt in a casino for the past two months), but I'd venture to say that Saturday isn't the last time we'll be working with Barry.  Until then, whenever "then" is, stay tuned and thanks as always for stopping by.

 

- Ryan

 

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