By robert Guttersohn
The lights at the Covelli Centre lowered, leaving as the venue’s only light source the green glow sticks held by the sold-out crowd of 5,900.
But soon the stage looked like the Las Vegas strip with its mix of bright lights and revealed Barry Manilow center stage Saturday night with the Youngstown Symphony Orchestra.
“A true blue spectacle,” he sang in the opening song “It’s a Miracle.”
Referencing his tour with YSO to the Covelli Centre crowd, Manilow said, “They are fantastic. They represented you so beautifully. So, I kind of feel like I know all of you already.”
But the spectacle surrounding the concert began much earlier in the restaurants and caf s downtown. Groups of women and wives dragging their husbands from as far as Cleveland and as close as Struthers created a multiplier effect for local businesses.
At Cassese’s MVR Restaurant, it was one of the rare nights they had to turn away call-aheads at the restaurant.
“It’s been a great night,” said Joe Cassese, the restaurant’s manager. “The crowd here is fantastic. We’ve had people from Cleveland and Pittsburgh staying in hotels and calling about coming for drinks after the concert.”
At Caf Cimmento there was a Struthers High School reunion of sorts that took place around the tables outside the restaurant.
Karen Minotti, Laura Kramer, Mary Bicchiottino and Charlene Carabbia, all 1976 graduates of the school, yelled out “Mandy” when asked about their favorite Manilow song. Only Minotti’s younger cousin Laura Schaller disagreed, saying she would wait for “Copacabana” before she started dancing.
Despite being a lifetime fan, Saturday night’s show was Minotti’s first time seeing Manilow in concert. She said she had tickets to see him 10 years ago, but the show was canceled after his mother died.
“I thought I’d have to see him in Vegas until they announced he was playing here,” she said.
Her three sons pooled together money to buy her tickets as soon as they went on sale in June.
Cars jammed Front Street by 6 p.m., and fans poured into the Covelli Centre’s open plaza well before the doors opened.
He may no longer draw the fans with the long, brown hair he sported when his first album hit the shelves in 1974, but concert-goers said he still has a stage presence that surpasses most others.
“You feel like you are watching a Broadway show,” said Elaine Matz of Ashland while sitting with friend Vicki Stull from Wooster.
They have seen Manilow perform 15 times including one of his shows in Las Vegas.
Don Tice, who saw Manilow for the first time with his wife, Rosemary, at Cleveland’s Quicken Loans Arena, could not help but be engrossed with his showmanship.
While the couple of 52 years waited for the show to begin, Don Tice said Manilow told the Cleveland audience, “Husbands, I know you’re upset that your wives brought you here, but in the morning you’ll be happy,’” Don Tice said. “And I was. He is just phenomenal.”
Inside, some members of the crowd grew antsy at the show’s slight delay, but after the YSO shuffled to their seats and once Manilow appeared on stage, all seemed forgiven.