It made perfect sense to have Barry Manilow and his fans take the new Anaheim Arena for its first spin Saturday night. You know how when you buy a new car, the owner's manual says not to really vroom the engine until you've put 1,000 miles or so on it? Well, maybe owner's manuals for new arenas say the same thing.
Caution: Do not book Metallica during the first 1,000 concert-minutes of operation.
With Manilow's long, three-hour opening night (including a 30-minute intermission and a 45-minute delay due to a traffic jam) behind it, the beautifully accoutered, but on this night echo - ridden, arena was broken in gently.
Manilow's tractable crowd wasn't apt to mess up anything, except perhaps the hearing of anyone unfortunate enough to be sitting close to one of his many very loud and very screechy female adorers.
If not big on substance, Manilow's "Greatest Hits Tour" (plus one of Garth Brooks', a passably rendered "If Tomorrow Never Comes") offered what his fans wanted: a light evening's entertainment by a nice guy who gives the impression he'd make a splendid house guest.
Unabashed schmaltz was the main fare for the evening: big, sinfully catchy ballads, starting out quietly and building to crescendos with Manilow holding notes as best he could, and his eight-member band laying it on thick behind him. The big-crescendo device worked every time, at least as far as Manilow's fans were concerned.
Manilow's syrup is strong and crafty enough to leave a permanent aftertaste. He writes the songs one may want to expunge but can't.