ATLANTIC CITY — Go ahead, try not to sing along to a Barry Manilow tune.
From the moment Manilow appeared at the center of the Boardwalk Hall stage, singing his hit "Could It Be Magic" and backed by the 60-piece New York Pops orchestra, the crowd was almost compelled to sing every word.
Manilow came to Boardwalk Hall on Saturday night for a special one-time performance with the New York Pops, presented by Caesars Atlantic City. The sold-out show marked Manilow's first concert this year outside of his standing gig at the Paris Theatre Las Vegas.
"Hello, Atlantic City!" Manilow shouted to the frantic "fanilows" (the moniker given to Manilow's most loyal fans). "Looks like we've made it!"
For Manilow, those words couldn't be more true. At 67 years old, Manilow still sounds unbelievable. Hitting every note and singing nearly every major hit of his four-decade career, Manilow never stopped moving, except to occasionally blot the sweat off his face with a towel.
"After 30 years of albums ... give me a break, ya know?" Manilow joked between songs.
The mood for some of Manilow's opening songs seemed a bit campy at first, with dance versions of some of his hits and a giant smiley face in the background for his song "Can't Smile Without You." But the arrangement of the New York Pops behind Manilow's classics — especially hits like "Daybreak," "I Write the Songs" and "Weekend In New England," made for phenomenal live renditions.
He also sprinkled in a few songs from his latest covers album, "The Greatest Love Songs of All Time." But for the most part, Manilow stuck to his own catalog, each song ending in a grand flourish from the orchestra.
But Manilow really shines when the bright lights and flashy backup dancers leave the stage — and he's behind the piano.
Singing his classic love ballad "Weekend in New England," Manilow's voice soared above the crescendo of violins and drums.
"If you can't get lucky to this one, you're in trouble," Manilow joked.
Manilow also used his rare chance with the orchestra to play a few hits he doesn't usually sing, including "When October Goes," a ballad he wrote based on an incomplete lyric by Johnny Mercer.
"Let's try it and see if I can hit the F sharp," Manilow said. And, he did.
"After all these years, I just never know if there's going to be an audience for me," Manilow said as the crowd cheered. "So thank you so much."
Kicking the night off on a lighter note was Las Vegas entertainer Gordie Brown, who opened for Manilow.
Brown, an impressionist, got the crowd laughing with goofy impersonations of the likes of Neil Diamond and Willie Nelson (mockingly singing "To all the plants I've smoked before"). But Brown's 40-minute set easily could have done without the tired, cliched impersonations of Elvis Presley and Michael Jackson. That could — and should — have been 20 more minutes for Manilow to sing.
The fanilows would have easily made that trade.