Barbra Streisand—The Music…The Memories…The Magic!
Date Seen: August 6, 2016
Venue: T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas, Nevada
Cost of Ticket: $510 US
One of the most anticipated, and surprising, concert tours this summer is that of Barbra Streisand. The 74 year old, who has notorious performance anxiety, announced a 9 date tour across the US and Canada this summer. The tour is meant to promote Streisand’s 35th studio album Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway which was released August 26th. On this album, Streisand duets with Hollywood royalty including Anne Hathaway, Melissa McCarthy, Jamie Foxx, Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, and many more.
The concert is divided into 2 acts: the first featuring her hits over the last six decades, the second highlighting songs from the new album. Unlike other tours, this show is meant to be less fussy and more intimate. The 58 piece orchestra from tours ago was replaced with a more modest band with three back up singers. The stage was simply laid out with a few tables with flowers, candles and a couple chairs. Behind the band was a massive screen that was well utilized as Babs strolled down memory lane. Unfortunately there were some technical issues and her teleprompter wasn’t showing the same feed as the video behind her. So now and then she would turn to look behind to see what slide they were on. For an act like Streisand, the slideshows felt a tad amateur for someone who prides herself as a director and cinematographer.
As for her singing, lets look at the basics. Her voice is great—no longer amazing. When I saw her almost a decade ago in London, she had to work for the high notes but she always hit them. Now she goes for the big notes a little less often, holds them a little shorter and takes more time to recover. But you have to remember, she is 74 and for her to even go for the notes that she did when she was twenty is admirable. Streisand is aware of this fact and her more recent albums play to her strengths: her lower register is better and stronger than ever. It has a velvety raspiness while still being crystal clear. And as Barbra makes a joke of some of the other Vegas acts, “Well at least I’m not lip-syncing!” But this doesn’t mean that she can’t still stop the show time and time again. Almost every other song received a standing ovation—especially deserving were You Don’t Bring Me Flowers, Being Alive, People, and Losing My Mind. The Way We Were, Woman in Love and No More Tears (Enough is Enough) all hit the mark—but barely. The second act of recent material all came out smoothly and heartfelt but didn’t compare to the iconic hits of the first act.
Beyond the singing, Barbra took us through an annotated photo tour of her career. From pointing out where the record company had photoshopped her nose, where she was wearing a headscarf because she was having a bad hair day, or where she fought the execs to release a cover without her face showing (where she later went on to win the Grammy for Best Album Cover for People), Streisand has stories to tell. Which is fitting since she is currently working on an autobiography. Aside from the stories and photos, the show had it’s political moments. Whether it was singing Being At War With Each Other or taking a few digs at Donald Trump, the show wasn’t short on messaging.
There were 2 big misses in the show. First, Barbra brought out mentalist Lior Suchard half way through her first act. While Suchard was entertaining, it totally ruined the flow and intimacy of the show. Let me be very clear —Ms. Streisand doesn’t require an opening act and she certainly doesn’t require the help from a psychic half way through her show. Secondly, because she is promoting a new album of duets, in her first few concerts she had incredible guests including Jamie Foxx, Seth McFarlane, and Kenny “Babyface” Edmonds. However, in Las Vegas (the Entertainment Capital of the World) she did not have one live duet partner. This was the biggest disappointment of the night especially after reading of the great guests 2 nights prior. It felt like I had a been a bit shortchanged on the experience.
In the end, Streisand did indeed deliver the music and the memories. Her crowd of 18,000 gave her over a dozen standing ovations through the night. “I love you” and “Marry Me Barbra” speckled the evening’s applause. What moved me the most is how this living legend could easily touch every person in the crowd through her voice. And that is where the magic came in.
Barbra Streisand’s latest album, Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway, is available now.