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Barry Manilow topples Elvis' performance record at Vegas' International Theater

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "LOOKS LIKE WE MADE IT")

BARRY MANILOW: (Singing) Looks like we made it.

AILSA CHANG, HOST:

More specifically, looks like Barry himself has made it. The king of soft rock has broken a record once held by The King.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "ALL SHOOK UP")

ELVIS PRESLEY: (Singing) I'm all shook up. Ooh-ooh (ph).

ARI SHAPIRO, HOST:

Seventies icon Barry Manilow has now played more shows at Vegas' International Theater than the previous record holder, Elvis Presley. It was a little bit of magic for Fanilows (ph).

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "COULD IT BE MAGIC")

MANILOW: (Singing) Could this be the magic at last?

MATT KELEMEN: It's a testament to his longevity.

CHANG: Matt Kelemen is an entertainment writer in Las Vegas, and he says this new milestone has solidified the 80-year-old as one of the city's staples.

KELEMEN: If you really want to see a good show, Barry Manilow is a great place to start. In the early '60s, you would have wanted to see the Rat Pack. In the late '60s, early '70s, you'd want to go see Elvis.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "VIVA LAS VEGAS")

PRESLEY: (Singing) Bright light city going to set my soul - going to set my soul on fire.

SHAPIRO: Elvis began performing at the theater at the Westgate Resort Hotel - then called the International Hotel - in 1969. He racked up a total of 636 shows by 1976.

(SOUNDBITE OF ELVIS PRESLEY SONG, "HOUND DOG")

CHANG: Well, when Manilow played his 637th show at that venue, he honored the King by singing "Hound Dog" wearing a red jacket with Elvis' iconic TCB lightning bolt logo stitched on the sleeve.

SHAPIRO: Kelemen says both performers had an it factor that drew a crowd.

KELEMEN: You see old footage of Elvis performing - they're just, like, near hysterical. With Barry, it's not hysterics. But, I mean, there's very few shows that I've ever seen where people were so happy to be there. They're happy because of their devotion to Barry Manilow.

SHAPIRO: In recognition of the new milestone, Manilow received a key to the iconic Vegas strip. September 23 was also declared Barry Manilow Day in the city for his help in establishing it as a significant landmark for entertainment.

CHANG: Kelemen agrees that the impact of a Vegas residency has shifted.

KELEMEN: There was a time when it was looked at like the place where entertainers went to retire. They're usually veterans, but they're just so vibrant. And people at the audiences - what's unlike most places - that they're all from different places. The only thing that they have in common is their devotion to the headliner.

SHAPIRO: And in that spirit, after breaking Elvis' record, Manilow thanked the people that made it happen.

(SOUNDBITE OF ARCHIVED RECORDING)

MANILOW: It really is all about you guys. It really is. It's - you know, I love all the awards and all, but I wouldn't be here if it weren't for you. Thank you for coming tonight.

(CHEERING)

CHANG: However, even if Barry Manilow and Elvis pooled their impressive performance records together, they would still have a ways to go to defeat the longest-ever Vegas residency - Donny and Marie Osmond's 1,730 shows.

SHAPIRO: But, hey, Manilow just announced more Vegas dates for 2024, so who knows what miracle might be around the corner?

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG, "IT'S A MIRACLE")

MANILOW: (Singing) It's a miracle - miracle - a true, blue spectacle - a miracle come true. We're together, baby. I was going crazy till the miracle came through. Now you're here, and my arms are around you. And, baby, there'll be dancing in the street. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Elena Burnett
Tinbete Ermyas
Ari Shapiro has been one of the hosts of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine, since 2015. During his first two years on the program, listenership to All Things Considered grew at an unprecedented rate, with more people tuning in during a typical quarter-hour than any other program on the radio.