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August 21, 2014

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Barry Manilow’s Paris occupation

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Denise Truscello/WireImage

Barry Manilow at the Paris on March 6, 2010.

Barry Manilow has moved. To Paris.

I hear some of you cheering. Knock it off: He's still in town—at Paris Las Vegas. Scoff, sneer, swear you'd never see his show, or that you don't know that tune (or that one or that one). But Manilow is undeniably the best showman and biggest star abiding in this patch of desert. Respect.

Manilow's Paris occupation is a good move for the entertainer: He's now represented by concert production/promotion giant AEG Live, and his show benefits from an all-around technological upgrade, a more expansive stage and a swanky, scarlet-draped showroom.

The show opens with a montage of Gallic imagery, then a widescreen MANILOW blazes blindingly in amber lights, and Manilow strikes a melodramatic, messianic pose, introducing "Could It Be Magic."

Winking and twinkling in a black brocade tux jacket, his trademark shock of hair an elfin mashup of Keith Richards and Kate Gosselin, Manilow is charmingly in on the joke.

And he's in fine voice, seemingly smiling even when singing of things that used to be. He had me at "This One's For You," with all its emotionally manipulative modulations.

Manilow has kept some of the best bits from his previous shows—the sentimental homage to his grandfather, a duet with his recorded self as a 4-year-old on "Nature Boy" (this "very strange enchanted boy" hits a few blue notes worthy of Billie Holiday), and on the cusp of '70s stardom, performing "Mandy" with his original nose on The Midnight Special.

The new show was directed and choreographed by Jeffrey Hornaday, an alumnus of High School Musical, though Manilow, like the similarly 60-something Cher, makes the most of minimal movements, occasionally cocking an (expensive) hip to loud, lustful (really!) screams.

The Details

Barry Manilow
Three stars
April 2-June 4, 7:30 p.m. $95-$299.
Paris Las Vegas, 946-7000.

The now-obligatory video screens are put to the best, and least-obtrusive, use I've seen on the Strip, offering framed sepia-toned seascapes, Brooklyn Bridge views and Impressionist details as backdrops for songs.

I wondered how Manilow was going to top the Star Wars-style skybridge that cantilevered him out over the Hilton crowd during the mandatory "Copacabana" finale. But he's done it here, with a giddy burst of animated rococo psychedelia blooming on the high-res screens behind him.

Where his earlier shows (Music and Passion and Ultimate Manilow) were relentlessly energetic, focused on the hits and only the hits, his Paris revue is more measured, sophisticated and self-indulgent. There are occasional lulls—notably when Manilow is shilling his current album The Greatest Love Songs of All Time—but soon enough he's back to the hits, and all is well.

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