Sunday, April 20, 2008

That First Time

This morning I was reading through some old journals and found something I had written after seeing Barry LIVE for the first time. It was the summer of 2002 during his Manilow Live Tour. It had been a long time coming for me and occurred at a pivotal time in my life when I needed to believe there was hope for the future. I recall when I purchased the ticket (4th row center), I had never spent that much money on a concert before and rationalized I would never again (history has recently affirmed another reason why we should never say never).

Since I had never been to one of his concerts, I did not know what to expect. I arrived early and was amazed at the size of the crowd and the age span of the fans. There were mothers and daughters, young children, families, middle-aged women, senior citizens and teenagers. They were purchasing t-shirts, CD’s, souvenir memorabilia, and chatting about the latest album release. The excitement was electrifying and as the sun went down, the lights on the stage came on and the music began. The moment had finally arrived. He walked out on stage and the noise was deafening. The crowd went wild and he was stunned and amazed by the applause and the thunderous roar of screams. Which to me is baffling. He’s had a career that has outlasted so many, and his humility remains intact.

On the first note, of the first song, I began to cry. There was a time that I felt this might not ever happen. But here I was sitting so close I could literally touch him and listening to the crystal clear notes and the meticulously perfect piano accompaniment. He was indeed a master. A showman. An interpreter of emotion. He connected to his audience and the magic of hearing him live was astounding. I will never forget those two hours. I was not aware of the sweltering heat, or the mosquitoes or the lack of a breeze. It didn’t matter that I was sweating like a pig (I’m sure He was also) or that at times the crowd was so carried away I could barely hear him as he spoke. I was there and I had beat the very disease that had killed my mother. I was there and the glimpses of God in his music had made me feel loved.

There were two defining moments that night as I sat and listened, reliving all the times in the past that those songs had been there for me. The first moment occurred early in the concert. He was walking across the stage and stopped dead in his tracks. It was as if he knew why I was there. But how could that be? He did not know me. I had never written a fan letter or sent him a picture. I had never been to any concerts or joined his fan club. He looked right at me and smiled and went into one of the songs that had helped me survive so much heartache. I would never forget those eyes. They pierced my soul that night. They said, “I know why you are here, and I can see you are hurting.” It was as if he knew exactly what I needed to hear him sing. And he managed a few songs later, to give me back the hope that I had lost and the joy that had faded. He began weaving a tale of a woman who had given up hope. She could not see God. She did not understand why her life had turned for the worse. This song that he wrote the music to and began to sing met me at the base of my being. As with all his songs, it began slowly and reached a crescendo of emotional proportion that I had not felt in many, many years. The tears began to flow, as once again the lyrics and the music became a symphony of healing in my heart and mind. That was the first time I heard "Stars in the Night" from Harmony.

I've been to many concerts in my lifetime. But I have never walked away with the feeling of joy and healing that I did that night. He may be just an entertainer to some and a smaltzy pop musician to others, but to me and to many of his fans, he is a vessel of healing and hope.

There is nothing quite like that first time that you experience that Manilow magic. For so many of us, it's life-altering. And rightly so. Because his music accomplishes what he wants it to do: it moves us.

Let the memory live again,
Texas Fan

1 comment:

Lively Linda said...

Here's to our first Manilow experiences. They are special and unique and here's to many more to come in the near future. Thanks for reminding me just how special they can be.

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