On Saturday night, I went to see Barry Manilow at the M.E.N. in Manchester. I have loved Barry for years. Here’s something I wrote on my old blog on 26 March 2004:
About 12 years ago I was incredibly unhappy. I hated my job, my boss was a total bitch, I was living in London and lonely. Work got so bad one day that I had sort of a panic attack, couldn’t breathe and was crying, but didn’t know I was crying – I was just getting on with my work with tears streaming down my face. On the way home I went into WH Smiths to buy a book that I couldn’t afford, because my friend Byron had recommended it and I needed something to take my mind off how awful my life was. The book was Tales of the City.
Then I went into a second hand record shop and saw a few Barry albums. I’d had a bit of a Barry “phase” when I was about 10 and my dad brought Let’s Hang On home from work (he worked on a newspaper and used to get free review singles). I’d loved it and bought two cassettes from a library sale and was Barry-fixated for a while. Anyway, I bought the albums and went home.
I had a week off work and spent the time crying, reading Armistead Maupin (I went and bought the other five books in the series even though I had no money – I probably went to Safeways and got cashback, even though my account was empty – you could do that then. Not good.), listening to Barry and watching The Thorn Birds on video (melodramatic, moi?).
At the end of the week Barry played the Albert Hall and I bought a ticket from a tout (must’ve been to Safeways again). I sat in the balcony in my ratty jeans surrounded by middle-aged women in furs who’d had their hair set for the occasion, and I was transfixed. My memory of it is like one of those film moments where the hero and heroine see each other through a tunnel of light and everything around them disappears. I loved it. I loved him. And I’ve loved him ever since.
David pointed out that I’m probably now the same age as those women in furs I saw at the Albert Hall. I am very much unimpressed with this observation.
Since that first show, I’ve seen him almost every time he’s toured over here. I saw him at Wembley Arena with my mum. I saw him at the M.E.N. when he had flu and did a ridiculously short set (but long enough that refunds didn’t have to be given… hmmm). I saw him when I was enormously pregnant with Joe. Every single time (apart from the flu show, which, on Saturday night, he described as “the massacre in Manchester”), he’s been wonderful.
I don’t mind saying that I had a little cry this time. During Sweet Heaven, weirdly, since it’s not even a sad song. But my life has changed SO MUCH since that Albert Hall show. I’m so much happier than I was back then, but of course back then I still had my parents, so, you know, bittersweet.
And then he did this – duetting with his younger self – so that didn’t help either. (It’s my birthday soon. I’m feeling fragile.)