3rd November 2012.
Reviewed by Bill Stephens
“I’m a singer who writes songs”, Melissa Manchester told me before she arrived back in Australia for her current tour, and what a superb singer she turned out to be.
For her concert at The Canberra Southern Cross Club Melissa Manchester offered a fascinatingly eclectic program which paid homage to her many collaborators, among them Carole Bayer Sager, Burt Bacharach, Marvin Hamlish, Kenny Logins and Peter Allen.
Though at her peak as a hit-maker in the 70’s and 80’s, Manchester is still a very fine singer, with a warm, throaty voice, and the ability to make every song an intimate conversation between singer and audience. It came, therefore, as little surprise when she confided that, between tours, she lectures in “The Art of Conversational Singing” at the University of Southern California. Her mastery of the lyric was immediately obvious from her very opening number, a gently, welcoming rendition of “I’ll Know You by Your Heart”.
This was followed with one of her best known songs, the Academy Award nominated theme from the film “Ice Castles”, “Looking Through the Eyes of Love”, sung against a filmed background of edited shots from the movie, together with some footage of her singing it accompanied by Marvin Hamlish and a symphony orchestra. The effect was both magical and moving.
Later in the concert she again featured a cleverly edited filmed backing as she sang an arrangement of “Memories” and “You’ve Got a Friend”, accompanied on film by Barry Manilow, with whom she engaged in friendly banter as they sang.
For the rest of the program she was accompanied by a four-piece instrumental combo of two guitars, drums and keyboards, plus an excellent backing singer, which she joined on occasion, as for her rocky arrangement of “Just Too Many People”, to play and sing from the piano.
She didn’t feature only her own songs though, and among the surprises was the original Ella Fitzgerald up-tempo arrangement of “Lady Be Good” complete with scat chorus, and a sultry, tongue-in-cheek version of the song made popular by The Ronettes, “Be My Baby”.
However it was her own catalogue that the audience had come to hear and she didn’t disappoint, offering gloriously heartfelt versions of Carole Bayer Sager’s “Come In From The Rain” and “Don’t Cry Out Loud”, and a song which she wrote with Kenny Loggins, “Whenever I Call You Friend”. There were also definitive versions of her two biggest hits “Midnight Blue” and “You Should See How She Talks About You”.
Of course the audience screamed for an encore, and again she surprised. This time with a tribute to singer Dusty Springfield, with a delightfully raunchy version of “Son of a Preacher Man”.
Melissa Manchester has promised to return to Australia in the not-too-distant future. If she does, don’t miss the opportunity to hear her sing her songs in person. It’s a truly memorable experience.