Jim Witter Brings the Joy of Manilow

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Jim Witter and band
Witter and band singing their rendition of “Mandy.” Photo by: Aaron Hernandez

Familiar guest to Moraine Jim Witter returned for his seventh visit with his brand-new show “I Write the Songs: Celebrating the Genius of Barry Manilow” on April 8th.

Playing to an audience filled with generations of dedicated Manilow fans, the band’s performance did not disappoint. The band embodied the spirit of Barry Manilow, an American singer-songwriter, arranger, musician, and producer whose career has spanned over 50 years. Witter’s voice and piano skills—backed by Jimmy Budro on drums, Tommy Lind on bass, and Ian Turner with keyboard and supporting vocals—transported the audience to what felt like a Vegas show. The changing colors behind a shimmering tinsel backdrop brought an aura of spectacle to the intimate performance, enhanced when the disco ball dropped in the middle of the first set.

A screen above the band often projected various facts and trivia about the songs being performed. However, the show also introduced the audience to the concept of “Barry-oke”—a mash-up of Barry and Karaoke—where song lyrics came on screen and the audience was encouraged to clap and sing along. As an avid karaoke goer and fan of Manilow, it was heaven. Witter remarked on how he enjoyed coming to the Dorothy Menker because of its warm vibe, comparing it “to a sing-along in my living room.”

Witter and his band brought the audience trivia about Manilow’s life, such as the fact that he initially started out arranging music on television and writing commercial jingles—including State Farm Insurance’s “like a good neighbor, State Farm is there,” and Band-Aid’s “I am stuck on Band-Aid, ‘cause Band-Aid’s stuck on me!”—before hitting it big with “Mandy.”

Numerous audience members reacted positively to the performance. One participant, Joan, described herself as a huge Manilow fan who had most of his albums back at home; she stated, “the singer’s voice is great.” Two other audience members relayed they heard last year Witter was coming back with a new show and was excited to hear his “great voice and piano” where the shows had “a relaxing environment.”

Witter also noted in his show that despite a large misconception that the prolific artist wrote all of his songs, Manilow actually had many co-writers and sung other people’s songs. Witter credited these artists in a tribute video on those who contributed to the Barry Manilow songbook.

The band played went on to play Manilow hits such as “Daybreak,” “Miracle,” “Even Now,” “I Write the Songs,” and “Somewhere in the Night,” “Could It Be Magic,” “I Can’t Smile Without You,” “Tryin’ to Get the Feeling,” and “I Made It Through the Rain.” The final encore was a Barry-oke “Weekend of New England” which led to a standing ovation. The interactive performance of “Copacabana” served as a standout moment of the night. Witter and his band gave a memorable performance and I look forward to the next time his group comes to town.