By Mark Brown, News Popular Music Critic
June 15, 2002
Grade:Manilow B+; CityLights Pavilion, A
When and Where: Friday night, CityLights Pavilion
Yes, technically it was a Barry Manilow concert. He showed up, he played, he sang.
But Friday night's show was really about the debut of the new CityLights Pavilion -- Clear Channel Entertainment and Kroenke Sports' latest multimillion-dollar gamble on the Denver concert scene. Barry was merely the exuberent guinea pig in the highly successful experiment.
The crowd included Stan Kroenke, Pierre Lacroix, Kiki Vandeweghe and a bevy of concert-industry big wigs, all with one question: Would it work?
Yep, it would. CityLights had a dazzling debut, aided by a gorgeous sunset, a silver moon and a balmy evening. The tented pavilion has the relaxed but vibrant atmosphere of a nightclub, albiet a huge one. You can sit down and intently watch the show, or you can hang out in the back and chat.
...Clear Channel officials have been touting their new state-of-the-art sound system, and with good reason. It delivered flawless sound in every area of the venue; even the sound in the parking lot was pristine and clear (something that could backfire; for the price of a light-rail ticket, you could come and hear the whole show without buying a ticket or paying for parking).
Manilow? Opening with Ready To Take a Chance Again, Manilow served up hit after hit in a Vegas-style revue, including a '70 kitsch overload in a duet with surprise guest Suzanne Somers on I Can't Smile Without You (seriously; I couldn't make that up). He was clearly glad to be there and thrilled the crowd with hits (though he truncated many of them and put them in medleys).
But the venue passed its debut with flying colors. The true test of CityLights isn't going to be its location and layout; despite doubts, it's clearly a fine place to see music, especially if the sound mix is as clean and clear as it was for its debut. Instead, CityLights will rise or fall on the quality of what it manages to book in there in a highly competitive concert business.