Read our music critic Jim Harrington’s excellent review of the Streisand concert here.
At first, Barbra Streisand was the kooky kid with the voice. Then she was an Academy Award winner and a box-office sensation. By the time she was a mother, feminist, activist and superstar, Streisand was already a legend.
But what does a legend do to remain legendary? In Streisand’s case, you pull away from the limelight. You still crank out albums to meet your recording obligations. You make (or direct) the occasional movie. And you raise money for the Democrats.
And then, if you’re really lucky (and want to work your butt off), you decide to make sure they know you’ve still got it. You go on tour — maybe two or three times because saying goodbye takes a long time — and you blow people’s minds.
That’s what Streisand did Monday night at the HP Pavilion in San Jose. As she nears the end of her farewell tour, her voice is a little ragged, but such an extraordinary instrument can stand a few rough spots and still soar.
Monday’s show was, like all the others before it, very nearly Barbra unplugged — just her and a 54-piece orchestra. No video montages, no fancy sets. There was a guest (the operatic quartet Il Divo), but they were basically back-up boys.
Barbra fans such as myself were in heaven. The only downside was toward the beginning of the show when Streisand came out singing “Starting Here, Starting Now.” I whooped and hollered to make sure Barbra knew I was there (after spending $350 she perhaps should have tossed me one of her earrings). And the older lady sitting in front of me, apparently not at all pleased by my volume, turned around with her pinched little face and actually wagged her finger at me.
But nothing could dim my enthusiasm. This was relaxed Barbra, happy Barbra (her men and women took the House and the Senate last week, and she’s positively aglow). And most importantly from the Theater Dogs point of view, this was show tune Barbra.
Here are the theater songs she performed in San Jose: “Starting Here, Starting Now” (Starting Here, Starting Now Maltby/Shire), “Come Rain or Come Shine” (St. Louis Woman Arlen/Mercer), “The Music of the Night” (The Phantom of the Opera, Lloyd Webber/Hart), “Unusual Way” (Nine Yeston), “Carefully Taught” and “Cockeyed Optimist” (South Pacific, Rodgers/Hammerstein), “Children Will Listen” (Into the Woods, Sondheim), “Somewhere” (West Side Story, Berstein/Sondheim) and a whole heap of songs from Funny Girl (Styne/Merrill): “The Music that Makes Me Dance,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and “People” from the Broadway show and “Funny Girl” and “My Man” from the movie.
In the Q&A when she read from notecards submitted by audience members, Streisand was prompted to say, “Shoot the swans? Dese lovelies?” from Funny Girl, and she recalled getting a voice lesson in San Francisco after losing her voice during a gig at the hungry i. She said the voice loss was psychological prompted by someone asking her how she held her notes so long. “I don’t know,” she answered the person. “Because I want to?”
My favorite songs of the evening: “Have I Stayed Too Long at the Fair?,” “Down with Love,” “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?,” “The Woman in the Moon,” “Cockeyed Optimist,” “My Shining Hour” and “Happy Days Are Here Again” (performed with such glee you knew she meant every word).
And yes, the George W. Bush impersonator Steve Bridges showed up and was hilarious. He said last Tuesday had given him a good “Texas thumpin’.” “What’s that?” Streisand asked. “It’s when your butt stays blue for two years. He he he he.” He and Barbra sang a new duet on “Side by Side” with newly re-written lyrics about Madame Speaker, Nancy Pelosi (to whom Streisand dedicated “The Woman in the Moon” along with the 71 women in the House andthe 16 in the Senate).
Streisand recited a long quote by William Saroyan from the preface to his play The Time of Your Life, and it captures beautifully the spirit of the evening (especially considering she cut out the part about killing):
In the time of your life, live…Seek goodness everywhere, and when it is found, bring it out of its hiding place and let it be free and unashamed…Be inferior of no man, nor of any man be the superior. Remember that every man is a variation of yourself…In the time of your life, live — so that in that wondrous time you shall not add to the mystery and sorrow of the word, but shall smile to the infite delight and mystery of it.