With a chuckle, Barry Manilow said he doesn't think the number next to his name is correct.
At age 70, the adult-contemporary pop legend doesn't feel old in mind or body.
"I still have my hair, and I look the same," he said in a recent telephone interview.
Manilow will perform at the Maverik Center on Friday, July 12 his first concert in the Salt Lake area since 2002. He has fond memories of that last visit, and he is expecting the same warm reception this time around, thanks to a new generation of fans.
"There's always a new audience," Manilow said. "There's my core audience who's been with me, and they are very loyal and faithful. … There's another generation who doesn't know what I do. I'm a relic of this kind of performing. Not many people stand up on the stage and do this and communicate with the audience."
That's what has kept Manilow onstage for more than four decades. He began as Bette Midler's music director and pianist in 1971; a year later, he recorded his first solo album. To this day, he contends he's not much of a singer, but an adept performer who learned how to engage the crowd.
"I could communicate with an audience, and maybe they wouldn't notice I'm not a singer," he said. "I write my own script out. I know what I'm going to do. But I just go and do whatever happens. I'm very comfortable on the stage."
However, it's Manilow's voice that has defined his career with more than 80 million records sold worldwide, 50 Top 40 hits and more than 40 albums released. He originally never wanted a career in singing. He wanted to be a conductor or arrange music. Before he worked with Midler, Manilow penned commercial jingles such as State Farm Insurance's "Like a good neighbor, State Farm is there" and Band-Aid's "I'm stuck on Band-Aid."
Those jingles are just as familiar as "Copacabana," "Mandy," "Can't Smile Without You" and "Turn the Radio Up," all of which the audience at the Maverik Center can expect to hear.
"I've been trying to do every hit song I've done in concerts," Manilow said. "I'm lucky I have a catalog filled with songs people are familiar with. They sing along and it's like reliving their childhoods."
Fans can receive two free tickets to the Salt Lake City if they donate new or gently used musical instruments to the Manilow Music Project. The now-8-year-old project donates instruments to schools in the cities in which Manilow performs.
Manilow started the free ticket incentive about 18 months ago with his own childhood in mind. Growing up in Brooklyn, he had one orchestra class where his love of music grew. Now, he can't imagine where he would be today without the opportunity.
"I love doing it," he said. "Any day now I expect to wake up with a cane and become an old guy."
He writes the songs
Barry Manilow returns to Utah.
When • Friday, July 12, 8 p.m.
Where • Maverik Center, West Valley City
Tickets • $23 and up; Manilow.com or Ticketmaster.com, in person at the Maverik Center or 1-800-745-3000.
Get in for free • Donate a new or gently used instrument to the Manilow Music Project and get two free tickets to the show. Drop off instruments at the Maverik Center Saturday, July 6, from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and Monday through Friday, July 8-12, 10 a.m. to 6 p.m.