Barbra Streisand in Brooklyn: Concert Review

Barbara Streisand Barclays Center - P 2012
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Barbara Streisand Barclays Center - P 2012

Despite vocal problems, Barbra Streisand still manages to thrill in this Brooklyn-themed homecoming concert. 

The legend makes her long-awaited homecoming to the New York City borough in this emotional, career-defining performance.

Barbra Streisand might have waited a little too long to come “Back to Brooklyn,” as her current tour is called. Performing an emotional and triumphantly received show at the borough’s new Barclays Center, the 70-year-singer, explaining that she was suffering the effects of a cold, displayed a voice that was noticeably fraying at times during her three hour-plus show.

Of course, Streisand not in optimum voice is still a better singer than nearly anyone else on the planet, and her masterful technique -- not to mention the chicken soup she drank frequently throughout the evening -- allowed her to overcome any deficiencies and thrill the sold-out, star-studded crowed. The evening, as much a cultural touchstone as a concert, masterfully exploited its homecoming theme.  

After an opening montage of vintage photographs encompassing her life and career, the singer emerged in a black sequined dress to deafening roars. “I’ve never played to this many people in my life!” she exclaimed, apparently not counting her landmark 1967 Central Park show played to an audience of roughly 135,000.

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The opening number, “As If We’ve Never Said Goodbye,” from Sunset Boulevard, was retooled with amusing Brooklyn-centric lyrics. But it was her belting of the phrase “I’ve come home at last!” that elicited the biggest cheer. She opened the show’s second half with a similarly rewritten “You’re the Top,” which included a shout-out to Jay-Z.

“Who said you can’t go home again?” she asked. “The last time I sang solo in Brooklyn was on somebody’s stoop on Pulaski Street.”

The show, performed to the accompaniment of a lush, 60-plus orchestra, was not dissimilar to the singer’s other tours of the past two decades. The well-chosen set reflected her long-standing collaborations with such composers as Jule Styne, Alan and Marilyn Bergman and the late Marvin Hamlisch, to whom she paid emotional tribute with beautiful renditions of “The Way We Were” and “Through the Eyes of Love.”

Clearly designed to allow her time to rest, the lengthy evening featuring an intermission almost played like a revue. The young Italian vocal trio Il Volo, with whom she sang on “Smile,” performed a short set featuring operatic chestnuts like “O Sole Mio.” After Streisand sang with Chris Botti on “What’ll I Do,” “My Funny Valentine” and her own “Lost Inside of You” and “Evergreen” from A Star Is Born, the trumpeter delivered a pair of instrumentals, including “When I Fall in Love.”

In the most personal if occasionally treacly segment, she brought out her son Jason Gould, looking and sounding a bit like Josh Groban, for an emotional duet on “How Deep Is the Ocean?” He then sang a solo of “This Masquerade” while his mother sat down and kvelled.

As usual, Streisand delivered running commentary throughout the evening, most of it carefully scripted as evidenced by the massive teleprompters that could easily be viewed by the crowd. She also stopped to answer questions that had been submitted by audience members in advance, injecting a political note into the proceedings in response to a query about Mitt Romney’s position on Big Bird.

“I hope that no one tells Romney how to get to Sesame Street, or 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue,” she declared.

Even with the problems in her upper register, Streisand was bewitching on numbers like, well, “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered.” Among the show’s highlights were “The Way He Makes He Feel” from Yentl; the Jimmy Webb song “Didn’t We,” a 1970 recording of which is spotlighted on her new Release Me collection; and a stirring medley that weaved together such Styne classics as “Rose’s Turn,” “Some People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

After the obligatory but still haunting “People,” she sat down to deliver that staple of singers of a certain age, “Here’s to Life,” delivered with a poignant restraint. It was followed by an encore of “Let the Garden Grow,” for which she was joined by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. But it was her final song, the quietly touching “Some Other Time,” that clearly had the most resonance for this crowd that had waited so many decades for their hometown girl to make good on her promise to finally come back to Brooklyn.

Set list:

As If We’ve Never Said Goodbye
Nice 'n Easy/That Face
Didn’t We
Smile (with Il Volo)
Un Amore Cosi Grande (
Il Volo)
O Sole Mio (Il Volo)
The Way He Makes Me Feel
Sam, You Made the Pants Too Long       
Enough Is Enough
The Way We Were/Through the Eyes of Love
Being Good Is Good Enough
Rose’s Turn/Some People/Don’t Rain on My Parade
You’re the Top
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Lost Inside of You (with Chris Botti)
Evergreen (with Chris Botti)
Emmanuel (Chris Botti)
When I Fall in Love
How Deep is the Ocean? (with Jason Gould)
This Masquerade (Jason Gould)
Here’s to Life

Make Our Garden Grow (with Brooklyn Youth Chorus)
Some Other Time