Monday, March 26, 2007

Vegas Recap: Barry, Liberace and Perspective

You would think that when you’ve been alive forever, and when your name is music, that you would continue to write the songs. But near as I can tell, that’s not what happened to Barry Manilow.

We saw Barry in Vegas (The Music and Passion show!), and you can’t help but notice that all those catchy melodies pretty much stopped as the 80’s were gaining steam. That’s not unusual in pop music – the flavor of the day changes regularly – except that Manilow wasn’t a singer, he was a songwriter.

Often with songwriters, even when they’re not cranking out their own hits, they’re cranking them out for others. Dolly Parton, Bruce Hornsby, and even that grimy chick from 4 Non Blonds – they all cranked out tunes after the spotlight quit shining on them. Manilow was the premiere songwriter for a decade, and was in his youth. So why are so so many of his albums just covers of songs from various decades?

I suspect the muse has left the building. For better or worse, it has been replaced by a certain amount of perspective, which tends to dampen those emotions that gush a little more freely when adulthood is a newer phenomenon. The excitement, despair, melancholy and god knows what other fuel is in shorter supply. What comes naturally is still possible, but it’s a lot more work.

And the Vegas trip was much the same. We had a huge group join us in Vegas this weekend, and by any standard measure I’d have to say it was the best group trip we’ve ever had. There were some killer events, both on and off the casino floor, and some great opportunities to reconnect with friends and family that we don’t see nearly as often as we used to.

And yet….

Perspective gets in the way. Our stupidity is a little more limited, our need for each other not quite as severe, our reality a little more separate. In the past, Vegas wasn’t as partitioned from our world, just a slightly crazier extension of it. Now, it’s not even close. Vegas used to be our reality on steroids. Now it fees like a movie we’re watching – still fun, but not as guttural.

But boy, was it one solid four days. Our goal was four solid days of irresponsibility and I think we mostly succeeded. So in honor of Barry, and the perspective that we gain whether we like it or not, let’s review the weekend by remembering some of Barry’s greatest hits.

Mandy – The concert didn’t produce any surprise special guests, unless you count Barry singing Mandy as a duet with a much younger version of himself. Playing a clip from Midnight Special, Manilow accompanied the younger version with a dueling piano and a slightly more “Vegas” feel.

Our trip had a special guest too. About five minutes after we checked into NYNY we ran into my brother Jeff. That would have been a surprise all by itself since he’s married with children and wasn’t supposed to be on the trip. It was a little more than a surprise considering that he is married with children in Melbourne, Australia. Turns out that he, my family and most of my friends had conspired to keep his trip a secret from me.

After catching up, Jeff went to check in, and The Voice Of Reason™ and I took the elevator to our room.

TG: Wow. Silence. Wow. Silence. I guess the ante has been raised on this weekend, huh?
TVOR: Yep. Silence. I’m not going to see you again this weekend, am I?
TG: No. No, you’re not.
TVOR: No. No, I’m not.

It’s a Miracle! – To the most miraculous stat of the weekend – 4 days, 3 nights, 0 hangovers. I’m giving full credit on two of those three nights to the ultra-doughy deep dish pizza they serve at NYNY until 3 AM. But Friday morning – that required divine intervention. I consider that to be the surest sign yet in my short existence that god exists. Somewhere around 10:45 AM I finally agreed we’re now even for that whole Drew Pearson push off thing.

And speaking of Thursday night, things are a little fuzzy, but I’m almost sure that at some point our wait staff started dancing seductively on the bar in tiny little leather outfits. It was like a cross between the Drew Carey show and Wicked pictures. I’m almost sure this happened. If anyone else remembers this, I’d sure appreciate some reassurance.

Copacabana – To the hottest bar north of Havana, I dedicate La Fontana bar at the Bellagio. NOT inside. Inside it feels a little like a wedding reception most times. Let me be a bit more vivid. Like a wedding reception where your angry overweight aunt is scaring everyone off the dance floor while the wedding band is playing .38 Special. Hold on loosely, indeed.

No, go outside, order a glass or two of overpriced port, and sit back and watch the Bellagio’s fountain show through a few interludes. It plays every 15-20 minutes, and it’s a wonder, an impressive combination of art, engineering and thousands of gallons of spurting water in the middle of a dessert. I was asked by a guy on the plane what he should do with his one night in Vegas. I told him to start it there.

Somewhere Down the Road – One of the more touching moments in the concert was when Barry sang this alone on a stool with very little accompaniment, but mostly what struck us all was how the sentiment just dripped with the blindness of youth.

That little look back in time was echoed Saturday, as four younger guys walked toward us heading to the food court. As they staggered past, it was clear that they weren’t just hungry – they NEEDED food. Three of them held their Miller Lites, but the fourth one, the one that took two steps sideways for every step forward, was desperately trying to rally with a mostly empty can of Red Bull. None of which would’ve been all that unusual if it wasn’t 11:30 AM. Dripping with youth indeed.

Ready to Take a Chance Again – To the song that Barry, inexplicably and inexcusably left out of the concert, I dedicate The Liberace Museum, which I inexplicably and inexcusably skipped on Saturday. It may be the ultimate Vegas experience - schlocky, cheesy, hilarious and while still just tiniest bit creepy.

Ships – We’re two ships that pass in the night, but it isn’t alright. This song goes out to the half dozen bartenders who managed to completely piss me off this weekend. Here’s what you DON’T know - I was gonna order a beer. I switched to that ridiculously tedious drink I ordered only after I watched you consciously ignore me for 15 minutes. Hope you enjoyed shredding and crushing those mint leaves.

I Write the Songs – To Bob, who was the driving force behind the weekend. For his 40th birthday Bob decided two years ago that all of us were going to Vegas to watch Barry Manilow. 22 people answered the call, and several of them arranged activities like Barry, The Liberace Museum and Spamalot. This weekend Bob was the music, and I for one, hope he’s around forever.

That’s this year’s Vegas recap. Next time, I PROMISE there will be some live updates while I’m there, now that I finally figured out exactly how to work this whole high speed internet thing. If you’ve been in Twins withdrawal, stop on back tomorrow, and I’ll try and get back on the horse. See ya then…


Bob Benson said...

I would like to add a few comments about Vegas that must get their due.

First, you mentioned the Liberace museum but didn't specifically mention the Liberace puppet who sang a duet during the tribute show. I don't know if you've ever seen a Liberace marionette, I would guess many people haven't, but you MUST see this. I was literally in tears it was so funny/disturbing. Put this on your top five things to see in your lifetime list.

Second, the beauty of Vegas is all of the little things that happen that are not part of the plan. I have now seen two of Louis Prima's children perform on separate occasions at The Casbar Lounge at The Sahara for free. The second performance was horrible. Not everyone shares my joy of The Casbar, but it is often so bad it turns the corner and becomes fantastic.

Lastly, thank you for the reference in your I Write The Songs section. I may not be around forever but I will try my best to be there for The Chatty Chatty Princess™ Visits Vegas Tour. Is it too earlier to start planning?

Uncontrollable Id said...

I just want you to know that I have been singing Copacabana for the last three days in a row. No particular reason. So this makes me happy. Thanks.

Bloody P said...

I just threw up in my mouth after looking at that picture of Liberace with short-shorts and argyle socks.


Also, strangely turned on.