Barry Manilow takes minds off Newtown


Barry Manilow’s decision to postpone his Friday “Gift of Love II” concert after the Newtown, Conn,, shootings caused some fans to miss his McCallum Theatre shows last week.

But, on the whole, it was a smart decision.

Marilyn Benachowski, concert mistress of Desert Symphony, said her daughter couldn’t stay in town through Barry’s rescheduled show on Sunday afternoon. So she brought her son, who was thrilled by the concert.

Barry told me after the makeup concert on Sunday he just couldn’t do his special Christmas show after news of the 26 kids being massacred saturated the air waves all week. The program included the feel-good “Because It’s Christmas (For All the Children)” with the Cathedral City High School and Washington Charter School choirs joining him on stage. That would have been too tough.

He said he considered singing “I Am Your Child,” which he often performs in concert, for his Saturday night show after taking off Thursday and Friday nights. The lyrics say, “I am your chance/ Whatever will come, will come from me/ Tomorrow is won by winning me/ Whatever I am, you taught me to be.”

But Barry said he sensed when he got on stage Saturday night that the audience didn’t want a song that might remind them of the massacre. He decided on the spot that he would go on with his regular “Gift of Love” program and not sing “I Am Your Child.”

Fans I talked to who had been to all four of his benefit concerts until then said the tragedy back East didn’t really affect their enjoyment of the shows. One fan said the shootings made Barry’s affection for the children on stage seem a little more poignant. But there was no mention of the tragedy and the fans said that’s what they wanted.

One of the joys of hanging out at the McCallum after two “Gift of Love” shows was talking to Fanilows from around the world. I took photos of about 15 of them Tuesday night. They were from as far away as Japan, Germany and Australia. I talked to two women from Australia Sunday afternoon about a mass shooting in their country that devastated them 10 years ago.

Mostly, they just talked about how much they loved the shows and the Coachella Valley. Alan Silberlight, who had seen Manilow more than 400 times, said watching Barry perform his hits and Christmas songs in the intimate McCallum Theatre made for one of his best Manilow experiences ever.

Barry ended his show crooning “Count Your Blessings,” another song that couldn’t help but make a parent feel lucky that Newtown didn’t happen in our town.

“I think about a nursery and I picture curly heads,” Barry sang, “and one by one I count them as they slumber in their beds.”

There were reminders of Newtown if you wanted to hear them. But Barry kept the spirits positive, which is how most people wanted to celebrate the Christmas season.