Barry Manilow’s first Wichita performance since 1997 drew 5,500 “Fanilows” to Intrust Bank Arena on Thursday night, and they were treated to nearly 90 minutes of hits from the 68-year-old singer’s nearly 30-year career.
The crowd, waving red glow sticks that were distributed before the show started, also got to hear Manilow play the piano, see him swing his newly repaired hips and listen to him crack self-deprecating jokes from the stage.
Manilow took the stage wearing black pants and a blue dress jacket and opened the show with a string of hits from the 1970s, including “It’s a Miracle,” “Could It Be Magic” and “Can’t Smile Without You.”
Aided by two energetic background singer-dancers, he also performed several upbeat hits, including “Bandstand Boogie,” the song that served as the theme for “American Bandstand” from 1977 to 1987.
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Manilow’s voice was strong and clear, and his stage presence was warm. He told stories about his grandfather, joked with audience members in the front row and spoke about his pet charity, the Manilow Music Project. Wichitans who donated musical instruments to the charity were given a free pair of tickets, and Manilow said that he’d collected 75 instruments, which will be donated to Wichita schools.
He moved freely around the stage, occasionally shaking his hips right along with his backup dancers.
The show, which included three wardrobe changes, touched on some of Manilow’s newer music, including the title track from his most current album, 2011’s “15 Minutes.”
But most of his time was spent on his classic hits. Also on the set list: “The Old Songs,” “I Made it Through the Rain” and a medley of “Somewhere in the Night” and “Looks Like We Made It.”
Toward the end of the show, a video of Manilow performing “Mandy” as a young man began to play, and Manilow joined in on the grand piano, mimicking the movements in the video.
That was immediately followed by a lively performance of his most popular hit, “Copacabana.”
He closed the show with the 1975 hit “I Write the Songs” and a reprise of “It’s a Miracle” that included a streamer and confetti bomb exploding over the audience.
“I’m so happy to be back here,” he said. “Let’s not make it another 15 years.”