Barbra Streisand’s first concert in six years Monday night at the soldout Wells Fargo Center felt more like a soft opening than the start of a highly anticipated jaunt.
Even the title of the tour, ‘Back To Brooklyn,’ gives it away. Streisand will make her debut in the borough where she was born Thursday night at the much ballyhooed Barclays Center.
Streisand’s consistently entertaining three-hour concert, commenced with a montage of photos featuring shots of the iconic figure’s childhood in Brooklyn. There was also footage from a ‘70s documentary with interviews featuring Streisand’s high school friends. It closed with a pal asking Babs to come back to Brooklyn for a concert.
Well, that’s finally happening but before Streisand goes back to Brooklyn, she warmed up for two weeks while rehearsing at Temple University’s Liacouras Center and she rendered a wonderful concert in South Philadelphia.
Streisand, 70, favorably compared South Philly and Brooklyn. “You have cheesesteaks and we have cheese blintzes.”
Her voice isn’t what it once was but what do you expect at her age? However, the mezzo soprano can still hit the high notes, which she did during her moving rendition of a re-arranged ‘The Way We Were’ and the pretty ‘Don’t Rain On My Parade.’
Her exquisite choices ‘The Way He Makes Me Feel,’ from ‘Yentl,’ ‘’No More Tears (Enough Is Enough’) and the show opener ‘Being Good (Isn’t Good Enough’), a terrific 60-piece orchestra and her special set of pipes were just part of the reason the show will go down as a truly memorable event.
Perhaps what was most significant is that Streisand impressed by just being herself. She held court in between each song and lived in the moment. The legendary figure responded to virtually every remark by the audience and somehow made the arena seem like a club. She paid tribute to her good friend, composer Marvin Hamlisch, who she started working with a half-century ago.
Streisand gave thanks to Philadelphia composers Alan and Marilyn Bergman with a medley of ‘Nice n’ Easy’ and ‘That Face.’ But the songs paled compared to her anecdotes about the talented couple.
During a question and answer session, Streisand brought down the house when she responded to a question about Mitt Romney’s threat to hunt down Big Bird. “I hope nobody shows Mitt Romney how to get to ‘Sesame Street’ or Pennsylvania avenue.” The crowd erupted as the raging Democrat jumped on her political high horse.
She sung with the gifted young Italian tenors Il Volo for ‘Smile.’ ‘Take that Justin Bieber,’” Streisand cracked after the trio of engaging teenagers impressed.
And then there was the sweet duet with her 45-year old son Jason Gould. It was his first public performance, according to mom.
Before Gould capably rendered ‘How Deep Is The Ocean’ with his mother, Streisand whispered into the microphone “that the words are there,” which was a reference to the teleprompter on the side of the stage. It was cute watching Streisand being so maternal with her middle-aged son
Gould or Streisand didn’t need any help as they nailed the tune.
Streisand, who was elegant in a variety of gowns, particularly a flowing black number, explained that she gave up touring after flubbing a few of her songs during a concert in Central Park in 1967 before returning to the concert trail in 1984. Is Streisand, who picked up the baton from Frank Sinatra as America’s most iconic entertainer, on her final tour? Streisand says she’ll never say never. If this was her last Philadelphia show, she went out on a high note.