Melissa Manchester At Catalina Bar & Grill
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By Jerry J. Sharell
With a music career that spans four decades, Melissa Manchester took the stage at the Catalina Bar & Grill in Los Angeles in what could be described as her very own "VH1 Storytellers" set. Manchester told the captivated crowd stories about her various career achievements in performing, songwriting and teaching.
After opening the night with a newer tune, "Open My Heart," Manchester experienced a technical snafu when a video playback stalled. While waiting for the problem to be resolved, she segued quickly into a story about her recent Mother's Day, where she sang "The Star-Spangled Banner" at the Dodgers game. Disappointed that the game wasn't televised that day, she shared her rendition with the audience, proving her legacy as a seasoned performer who has toured consistently since the '70s.
Video intact, Manchester told stories of how her 1979 hit "Through The Eyes Of Love (Theme From Ice Castles)," was written specifically for her by her friends, the late Marvin Hamlisch and Carole Bayer Sager. Her voice soared over the ballad as if no time had passed since it was written.
Cover tunes were sprinkled throughout Manchester's performance as she recalled discovering Phil Spector's Wall of Sound. She subsequently launched into a sing-along version of the Ronettes' "Be My Baby." When she performed her 1982 GRAMMY-winning hit "You Should Hear How She Talks About You," she pointed to the screen as footage of her in the '80s — clad in extra-large shoulder pads, perfectly coiffed hair and a fit size four — danced onscreen, often with the Solid Gold dancers.
"I look at that and say, 'Give that girl a cookie!'" she joked.
A highlight of the night was Manchester belting the poignant hidden gem, "Come In From The Rain," which she co-wrote with Sager. When retelling the story of how she was discovered, after a stint as one of Bette Midler's Harlettes, she revealed that she and Sager began writing together with the goal to have Dionne Warwick sing one of their songs. "Midnight Blue" never made it to Warwick because the label executive wanted "the girl on the tape" — Melissa Manchester.
As an adjunct professor who teaches the art of conversational singing at the USC Thornton School of Music, Manchester assured the crowd she is imparting her wisdom and love of the Great American Songbook to her young students. Vowing to keep alive the legendary works of the Gershwins, Irving Berlin and Cole Porter, she crooned a rousing medley of "Let's Face The Music And Dance" and "From This Moment On."
Performing an acoustic version of "Don't Cry Out Loud," for which she received a GRAMMY nomination for Best Pop Vocal Performance, Female, Manchester dedicated the tune to Peter Allen, who co-wrote the Top 10 hit with Sager and passed away in 1992. She closed the show with "Son Of A Preacherman," a song she began covering following the death of her friend Dusty Springfield in 1999.
Melissa Manchester presented an uplifting set filled with behind-the-scenes stories and stellar vocals, keeping music history alive while presenting a polished evening of true musicianship.
To catch Melissa Manchester in a city near you, click here for tour dates.
"Open My Heart"
"The Star-Spangled Banner"
"Through The Eyes Of Love (Theme From Ice Castles)"
"I Know Who I Am"
"Be My Baby" (Ronettes cover)
"You Should Hear How She Talks About You"
"Come In From The Rain"
"Let's Face The Music And Dance" (written by Irving Berlin)
"From This Moment On" (written by Cole Porter)
"Then There's Claudia"
"Spring Knows It's My Way Back Home"
"Whenever I Call You Friend"
"Wherever You Are, You're Home"
"The Other One"
"Something Wonderful" (written by Rogers and Hammerstein)
"The Way We Were" (written by Alan Bergman, Marilyn Bergman and Marvin Hamlisch)
"You've Got A Friend" (Carole King cover)
"Don't Cry Out Loud"
"Son Of A Preacher Man" (Dusty Springfield cover)
(Jerry J. Sharell is Director, Communications at The Recording Academy. Throughout his vast career, Sharell has represented a diverse list of celebrities and corporations, including Barry Manilow, Kimberley Locke, Leeza Gibbons, BCBG Max Azria, and Hard Candy.)