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Barry Manilow in Aberdeen: When showbiz hero found himself way north of Havana

The legendary Barry Manilow on his Showstoppers tour in 1991.

A shivering Barry Manilow found Aberdeen slightly colder than the Copacabana when he arrived in the Granite City 30 years ago.

The showbiz legend was performing the only Scottish date of his Showstoppers UK tour at the AECC on November 5 1991.

Manilow wrapped up warmly after he discovered that Aberdeen in winter was about as far removed as you could be from the hottest spot north of Havana.

Showstoppers was his 23rd album and the concert offered a crash course for the audience in the history of Broadway.

He spoke to the Evening Express before the concert about what lurks behind the mask of stage make-up, sequined jackets and perfectly-rehearsed sequences.

Barry Manilow on stage in Aberdeen in 1991.
Barry Manilow on stage at the AECC in 1991.

Manilow confessed to being “a sensitive kind of guy” who admired “a sense of humour in women”.

He said his own idea of romance was “that of an average guy – a glass of wine, soft lights and some romantic music”.

He said his impressions of Aberdeen were “a beautiful city but ever so cold” and he joked that he would have to give out flu tablets to the audience.

Manilow opened the show with Give My Regards to Broadway and performed 36 songs alongside five guest performers during the two-hour show.

The second half of the evening was devoted to Manilow’s rearrangements of his own hits in vintage musical theatre styles.

Manilow thrills the capacity crowd with the greatest hits from Broadway.

Mandy was sung as a barbershop quartet, Read ‘Em and Weep became a Gilbert and Sullivan production and Can’t Smile Without You as a song from A Chorus Line.

Impressionist and singer Donna Cherry put on a series of wigs and did caricatures of Julie Andrews, Cher, Dolly Parton and Madonna, all singing Copacabana.

Among the fans in the AECC were London’s Rosemary Meek, who was seeing Manilow for the 63rd time and had spent £700 in the past fortnight following the tour.

Valerie Mason from Essex was there having just returned from an American fan convention and said she had lost count the amount of times she had seen her “mentor”.

Alison Bird from Fraserburgh said she slept out all night with a friend to purchase front row tickets and seeing Manilow live “was a dream come true”.

Dyce woman Margaret Gordon described the show as “the best night of my life”.

Lorraine McKnight, front, and Joan Wilson catch their breath after travelling from Yorkshire to see their idol on stage.

The Evening Express review of the show said it was “easier to understand such Manilow mania” following a “stunning extravaganza from the international singing superstar”.

The review said: “Around 3,500 fans – young and old, male and female – were at the Aberdeen Exhibition Centre for the end of Barry’s UK Showstoppers tour – a magical trip through Broadway’s musical history.

“Right from his opening number, Give My Regards to Broadway, Barry had them enthralled, inspiring clapping and singing with hits from top musicals including Cats, 42nd Street, A Chorus Line and Guys and Dolls.

“Backed by five equally talented singers and a seven-piece band, Barry drew standing ovations after every song.

“He didn’t rely on gimmicks – unless you count the jokey girl perched on a piano attached to a bike.

The showbiz legend left his mark on the Granite City in 1991.

“And there was no special lighting show to detract from the main attraction.

“Whether it was a ballad from the 1920s or an updated Gershwin number – complete with breakdancer – Barry gave a slick performance, making it all seem so effortless.

“Giving humorous introductions to each song, he also allowed his backing singers their own spot in the limelight.

“He closed with I’ll Be Seeing You, promising to return – and for many fans that couldn’t come soon enough.”

Did Manilow stop in for a pint at The Grill during his stay in Aberdeen?

When he’s touring in Britain, it’s not unusual for him to call in at a pub to grab some lunch, picking something from the menu and sitting down with the locals to enjoy it.

“Like I said, I’m an ordinary guy,” he said.

“Because of who I am, I can get the best seats in restaurants, but I enjoy just dropping in for some lunch somewhere without any great fuss.

“I’ve always especially liked British pubs, the food is good and I love the friendly atmosphere.”

With worldwide record sales exceeding 85 million, Rolling Stone magazine once referred to Manilow as “the showman of our generation“.

American singer Barry Manilow on stage during a concert at Blenheim Palace in front of thousands of fans.

He was born in Brooklyn.

Life dealt him a low blow when he was just two and his father walked out on the family.

When he was 13, life changed once again when his mother remarried.

Her new husband was an Irishman named Willie Murphy and he presented him with a piano and this began a journey that has taken him to superstardom.

Happy to write and arrange music, Manilow never thought of actually singing, even when he was engaged as musical director for Bette Midler in 1971.

But eventually he was given a spot in her shows where he sang some of his own numbers.

The result was the stuff that dreams are made of.

A star was born when he performed Could It Be Magic at the Red Rock Stadium in Denver.

He will return to the UK in 2022 for a limited number of arena concerts including a night at The SSE Hydro Glasgow on June 23.

He has never lost touch with his humble roots.

“I’m not in music for money – I’m in music for music,” he says.

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