Friday, May 31, 2019

LEGENDARY PERFORMERS: still touring after all these years

Barry Manilow last week in Las Vegas, at 75, singing, playing, engaging with the audience.
He returns to Broadway soon.




IN THE LAST year or two, we've seen a host of aging entertainers in live performance venues.  Each one was satisfying. All received standing ovations. Last week we joined a packed house at the Westgate in Las Vegas to watch Broadway bound Barry Manilow. Sprightly at 75, he endeared himself with a generous 95-minute show, playing his own tunes and a
Bette Midler does specialty performances,
including recently at the Oscars.
Elton John at 72 still tours,and
will return to his  Las Vegas gig.
Chopin prelude that inspired one of his hits. Bette Midler at 73 proved herself still "Divine." She gave three encore numbers, donned a mermaid costume and displayed her usual sexy chutzpah when we saw her at Caesar's a couple years ago. Mick Jagger, 75, couldn't quiet the crowd for the whistles and cheers at his desert concert in 2017. Cher, 73, rocked the Vegas house both times we saw her -- oozing charm with two dozen costume changes.
Tony Bennett, soon 93, headlined with Lady Gaga in a world tour at 90. Gordon Lightfoot at 80, Willie Nelson at 86, both earned standing ovations at our recent concerts. Soon to turn 89, Bob Newhart's one-man comedy show charmed at Harrah's Rincon. Rich Little, nearly 81, delighted us at the Laugh Factory in Vegas. Paul McCartney turns 77 this month -- still composing and occasionally taking the stage.
Elton John, a kid at 72, is still touring, although tapering back on the number of his energetic Las Vegas shows. We're EJ groupies -- four times at Caesar's.
Jazz pianist Marian McPartland was in her late  70s when she
played a Billings, Montana, concert.  Here, center, with writer
Christene Meyers and marketing specialist Corby Skinner. 

WHY DO THESE aging stars continue to perform?  Because they like it and we like them. They draw huge crowds, perform with enthusiasm, connect as they entertain. We've grown older with them, so it's charming to see them age gracefully, bowing to standing "Os."
When we were coming of age, in the early days of rock and folk music, our parents were listening to Frank Sinatra, Dean Martin, and the amazing Tony Bennett, whose popularity spans decades and generations. Rock and folk music were unifying cultural forces. Now those rockers and folk artists are growing older. But they still rock out, perhaps with a little more delicacy.
Willie Nelson is still a crowd-pleaser.  We saw him last month at Humphrey's Concerts by the Bay here in San Diego, 25 years after I interviewed him in Montana. With his signature red bandana, his throaty but tender style and self-deprecating wit, he's a joy to behold and still has the chops. At 86, Nelson's voice is weakening, but, he still picks a mean guitar and is sharp as ever.
Willie Nelson in an interview during a tour
that took him to Big Sky, Montana. He is  

Although she was a youthful "60-
something" when we saw Angela
Lansbury in "Sweeney Todd," she
played Madame Arcati in "Blithe
"Spirit" when she was 91. She is 93. 
Tony Bennett still jazzes it up on stage, in rare performances.
Who knows if he'll tour again, but he has a new record out. 
I LOVE seeing performers I grew up with, ones my parents and even grandparents loved.  I had the good fortune to see Sinatra, Sammy Davis Jr., Nat King Cole,  Marian McPartland, Barbara Cook, Rosemary Clooney,  Alberta Hunter and other greats. Seeing the marvelous Bobby Short twice at the Carlyle in New York was a highlight.  He was in his mid-70s, still brilliant. The king of longevity is Bennett, who turns 95 in August and is just out with a new album. We've seen him five times (three times with Lady Gaga, twice solo). Magnificent. Ringo is 78. Johnny Mathis is 83. Angela Lansbury was 62 when I saw the actress-singer take the Tony for her Mrs. Lovett role in "Sweeney Todd"; 30 years later, we saw her in "Blithe Spirit" in Los Angeles. We could do another column on legendary aging film stars: Julie Andrews, Dick Van Dyke, Mel Brooks....  Leonard Cohen toured until a year before his death in 2016. Neil Young, a mere 70, is still recording and performing. Bob Dylan, elusive at 78, continues to keeps a low profile as we know from his rejection of the Nobel Prize.
Leonard Cohen at 77 was still touring, but ill health forced
 tapering back, to mostly recording. He died at 82 in 2016.
I last saw Billy Joel when he was 66. At 70 now, he's still a kid. Rumors of another tour are out.  It's not the money. Most are  financially secure and could quietly disappear into a life of golf, travel, reading or lazing about. But they thrive on performance; they need the connection.
THIS WAS  obvious when we saw Mainlow last week in his fabulous show.  He did his hits, dressed the crowd, shook hands. Grace. That's what these veterans share. Bravo, brava. May it continue thus.

UP NEXT:  Montana is calling -- and we answer! Come with us to  Big Sky Country, where the deer and the antelope play.  We'll take a few sidetrips to Red Lodge, Livingston, Cody, Wyoming, and more, and share some of our favorite photos of real cowboys and the true wild west.  Meanwhile, remember to explore, learn and live and catch us each Friday when we post a novel look at the arts, travel, nature and family. We welcome your feedback at


  1. Cambridge Culture LoversJune 1, 2019 at 6:28 AM

    What a fun piece. And how exciting to be able tonsee these icons, our musical heroes.

  2. We had tickets for Roy Orbison and, sadly, he passed. Keep on following these shining stars!

  3. Just saw the ticket info on his Broadway show. Saw his Tony winning Bway debutr mant moons ago. What a showman. Thanks for the tip on his return to the Great White Way.

  4. Wyoming whereiscookie devoteesJune 1, 2019 at 8:52 AM

    Go Barry. Go Bette. Go Mick. Go Cookie and Keller!

  5. Happy to see this delightful article and wonderful photos. The one Mr. Keller took of Manilow is extraordinary. I'll bet he would love it.

  6. So wonderful to see this comprehensive look at favorites of ours.

  7. Montana Music LoverJune 2, 2019 at 7:39 AM

    Wow, great article and photos! We enjoyed the concerts of Barry Manilow at the Greek Theater in L.A., Elton John at the University of MT, and Willie Nelson at the ABT in Billings. As a little kid, they were all my favorites, and they still are amazing entertainers.

  8. Colorado Culture DevoteesJune 5, 2019 at 6:15 AM

    Great roundup of the greats.