THEY’RE the most fearsome fan club of all.
Barry Manilow lovers are not called Fanilows for nothing, a fact I’ve learned to my cost this week.
The dedicated followers of the Mandy singer will follow him anyw h e r e , even to West End.
He doesn’t tour the UK often and, for seven years, they had to travel to Vegas to get their Barry fix.
So when he played Hampshire this week, nothing but a five star review would do.
But my review of the show was lukewarm, as was the weather and the reception he received at the Ageas Bowl last weekend.
Yes he did turn up on stage an hour late and, in my opinion, his voice did sound as though it had lost some of its sparkle.
Nevertheless, in my review of the show I had to agree that due to the crooner’s back catalogue few among the crowd of less than 10,000 went home disappointed.
But that didn’t stop Barry’s barmy army of followers turning me into public enemy number one and putting me at the top of their hit list.
Having enjoyed a 40-year career, most of Manilow’s fans are not as young as they were. But that hasn’t stopped them indulging in a spot of cyber bullying.
I’m beginning to understand what it feels like to be anyone who has vaguely upset or been involved with any member of One Direction.
A few Fanilows spent the bank holiday weekend abusing me for being appalling, disgusting and, the most original slight of all, a lazy journalist.
One fan in the US, who didn’t attend the concert, decided I, a complete stranger, was horrid, meanspirited and in a foul mood in a series of email rants.
But I stand by my comments, which were fair and reflected a night that wasn’t the brightest spot in my journalistic career.
Manilow has sold 76 million records, although only Fanilows admit to buying them. But, I was curious, as I am whenever a showbiz legend turns up on my doorstep.
He is wary of writers, refusing all review tickets in a move which I’ve only encountered on one other occasion – for Meatloaf, who had a terrible time at Broadlands six years ago. I wondered what he was so afraid of ?
The event’s press office offered to sneak me into the photographers pit but, wanting to get a better view of what was on offer, I decided to snap up some cut price Groupon tickets for £22.50 each.
There was organised chaos outside with long queues snaking back from the box office in heavy rain as the support act took to the stage.
At last we get into the venue, very late, so some of the Fanilows were cross. But not with Barry, for he can do no wrong.
Due to the poor turnout – I estimate between 7,000 to 8,000 – the stage had been moved and some top price seats on the pitch in the rain had been double booked. Luckily, the cheap seats were under cover.
When the rain died down and Manilow finally took to the stage more than an hour late according to the timings I was handed (45 minutes according to another schedule published) he spent much of the show bemoaning the British weather.
What had promised to be a washout though improved significantly with a shorter than expected one and a quarter hour selection of hits from his back catalogue.
He certainly entertained.
Some loved it, rushing forwards with their glowsticks held aloft to Could It Be Magic, others hated it, booing his late appearance and groaning at his joke British summertime version of Santa Claus Is Coming To Town.
I could have been a great deal harsher, but I’m always keen to be fair to both the performer, who is giving their all on stage, and the audience, who have shelled out their hard-earned cash for tickets.
And anyway, it’s only my opinion.
My experience of Manilow Mania has not made me want to sign up immediately for the Barry Manilow International Fan Club, UK branch any time soon.
In fact, if I ever hear Copacabana again, I might just scream.