Barbra: Back to Brooklyn (10/11/12)

A buzz is in the air as the hum of thousands of excited fans file outside in the crisp Brooklyn air. People in all manner of dress: jeans, dress clothes, t-shirts that have a picture of their favorite singer on them, it didn’t matter. The lines to get in to Barclays are for one purpose only — to see Barbra Streisand in concert.
“It’s a Brooklyn crowd,” exclaims a middle-aged woman into her cell phone. Her accent is clipped and very New York sounding, “Oh yeah, there are probably 1,000 people or more standing out here,” she continues to shout into her phone. The ladies around her start to laugh and look around them at the sea of people. “I wonder what time they’ll open the doors” another lady asks someone next to her. A voice in close-by remarks, “why don’t you ask that guy over there.” The voice, a woman’s, suggested a man holding a program wearing a shirt that had Barbra Streisand’s face on it bearing the title Timeless: The Concert.

The ladies congregating in front of me laugh and continue to chat about the concert and how excited they all are. In truth, the excitement is palpable. 

A Barclays attendant appears, out of nowhere, with a metal detector wand, “Hold your arms out please” comes the request. Several people submit to being checked, holding out their arms with contended smiles on their faces. “Enjoy the concert,” the attendant chirps making his way through the crowd.
“PROGRAMS! GET YOUR PROGRAMS,” a guy shouts, milling about the crowd, holding a cardboard box in one hand and a slim black book with BARBRA – Back to Brooklyn emblazoned on the cover.

The chatter starts to get heavier, people laughing, getting into various lines, the topic of discussion one thing: Barbra Streisand.

Suddenly, a woman ahead shouts, “they’ve opened the doors. It’s time to go in.” The ladies in front shouts their approval, and the queue swiftly makes its way through a huge white tent inside the lobby of Barclays Center. The buzz continues to get louder and louder as people dispersed, finding their way through the new arena, or making a B-line for the souvenir table.

It’s easy to see why concert promoters love fans, they make a killing off selling t-shirts, posters, concert programs and other trinkets at outrageously inflated prices. And like starved animals to food, fans cram their way to a large table; to get their items before the concert begins.

“There are moments you wait for and dream of all your life. This is one of those moments” – Alan and Marilyn Bergman

For 20 years, I’ve wanted to see Barbra Streisand live in concert. On Thursday night, that wish came true. And how! I was so excited to be in the stadium with 19,000 other people I could barely contain my excitement. Everything about the night was truly magical. The opening video with a montage of pictures of Barbra, to her singing “You’ll Never Know” was simply perfect. I loved hearing the Broadway Funny Girl overture again, it felt right and I knew the audience was in for something special. As soon as Barbra appeared on stage, I rose to my feet screaming like everyone else. The roar from the arena was so loud. Tears were flowing already. My dream had come true. There I was, seeing Barbra Streisand, in person.

I loved hearing “As If We Never Said Goodbye” especially with the lower key of the arrangement. The references to Brooklyn were wonderful as was her “Talk amongst yourselves” a priceless Barbra moment. Her voice was powerful and the lyrics remained true, a resounding roar from her audience greeted the line, “I’ve Come Home at last”. Her medley of “Nice n’ Easy/That Face” was fun, and I cannot tell how happy I was to hear “The Way He Makes Me Feel” from Yentl such a beautiful song and Barbra, as usual, nailed it.
The Tribute to Marvin Hamlisch, her duets with Chris Botti; and of course her duet with her son Jason, are three moments that I will always cherish. Her stirring and achingly beautiful rendition of “The Way We Were” was superb, using the film orchestrations was a masterstroke of genius. “Through the Eyes of Love” from Ice Castles was poignant and had me crying unashamedly.

I was admittedly unsure about Chris Botti; however, his duets with Barbra on “Evergreen” and “What’ll I do/My Funny Valentine” were a wonderful surprise.

The real gem of the evening was hearing Jason Gould (who has a very nice tenor voice), duet with his mother. “How Deep is the Ocean” was a great number for them both to sing. Seeing mother and son on stage was the perfect way to cap Streisand’s two milestones: a homecoming and a 50th anniversary with Columbia Records.

At 70 years of age, Barbra Streisand continues to prove she can do anything, that “nothing is impossible.” True her voice has aged, gone are those once effortless vocal pyrotechnics, and grittiness as edged into her voice. Yet somehow, it all fits allowing Streisand to explore her deeper, more resonate lower register.
“Make Our Garden Grow” as the final number in Act II shocked me. I’ve been listening to a bootleg of Barbra singing it from her 1988 Back To Broadway sessions for years and I’ve always thought it would be brilliant in a concert. However, I was nervous as to how she would handle the last note. The music swelled and the collective power of musical guests: Il Volo, Chris Botti, and the Brooklyn Youth Choir brought the climax. Barbra opened her mouth and sang the last note of the piece. I was blown away. Conserving her power for the final number, she ended with tail end of “Somewhere” which thrilled the audience. I remember asking Richard Jay-Alexander if Barbra was strong enough vocally to tackle the iconic song for another concert. I received my answer. Yes.

After “Some Other Time” which was a smart closing number, the lyrics fit so well, and a special encore of “Happy Days are Here Again” a nod to the current presidential election, the show was over and it was time to go home.

Even if the concert lasted three hours and was thirty minutes late in starting, I wanted it go to go on forever and ever. After waiting 20 years to see your idol in concert, three hours just doesn’t seem like enough time. I hope there will be “some other time” because if there is, I will be there.

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