NY Daily News

January 1, 1994

Despite glitches, concert shows Streisand's comeback is long overdue

Midway through the first set of Barbra Streisand's ambitious comeback show here Friday night, it became clear this was an extension not only of her singing career, but her therapy.

It would not be surprising, in fact, if she were to reveal that her New Year's Eve and New Year's night shows before a star-studded crowd at the new billion-dollar MGM Grand were arranged at the suggestion of her therapist. Something along the lines of: "Barbra, I think your next step is to perform live again. May I suggest Vegas?''

The result was a kind of artistic schizophrenia. When she sang, she sounded sublime. Between songs, we visited her couch so often she could have been addressing the American Psychiatric Association.

Most great singers, from Billie Holiday to Sinatra to Piaf, tell part of their story in their music. The key is to let the song do the work.

Streisand did that with her opener, the upbeat "As If We Never Said Goodbye" from the new musical "Sunset Boulevard," but the core of her first set was a long skit-with-songs about shrinks she has known and the questions they have explored together ("What Is This Thing Called Love?").

While it had its amusing moments, the routine lasted so long that it stopped the show pretty much dead in its tracks.

Fortunately, Streisand also knew how to revive it: Lean into the mike, stroll among the elegant white chairs on the stage and sing.

When she handled "For All We Know" like delicate china, read "Can't Help Loving That Man Of Mine" as a transcendent blues and infused "Lover Man" with a marvelous sense of urgency, she proved that, yes, she has been away far too long.

Her voice has lost nothing, and she seems to understand songs better — a point she noted joking that it took 2,700 hours of therapy before she felt she could really sing "On a Clear Day You Can See Forever."

The crowd was ecstatic — almost giddy. Like most crowds, they liked what they knew best: "People," "Evergreen," "The Way We Were."

About 13,000 fans attended, and at least that many lined the casino to look for stars like Tom and Roseanne Arnold, Mel Gibson, Coretta Scott King, Bobby Bonilla, Richard Gere and Cindy Crawford, and Alec Baldwin and Kim Basinger.

Whether Streisand now takes her act on the road will probably depend on how she feels once the adrenaline subsides. At the end of Friday's show, she chirped, "We did it! We did it!'' adding, "I ... think ... I enjoyed myself.''

But not everything worked. A vastly overstretched up-from-the-audience visit by Mike Myers as Linda Richman, the Streisand-loving "Coffee Talk'' lady from "Saturday Night Live,'' served little purpose other than to lavish compliments on Streisand's legs and artistic stature points on which this audience hardly needed convincing, though maybe she still does.

Musically, her lovely vocal on "Since I Fell For You" was a touch too upbeat, and the show's lengthy Broadway-style overture put together by Marvin Hamlisch for Streisand's 60-piece orchestra teasingly included passages from several songs she did not sing.

A joyously upbeat "Happy Days Are Here Again," with a video current-events montage that plays like a Bill Clinton campaign spot, is a sweet idea, but came across Friday as far too much of a departure from the reflective, more intimate tone of everywhere else in the show.

But if this sounds harsh, it's only because Streisand reminded us elsewhere in the show just how good she can be, when she's singing or reminiscing about falling in love with Marlon Brando when she saw him in "Guys and Dolls"' at the Loews theater in Flatbush.

It would be nice if the therapy part of this weekend's shows worked well enough that she'll now get back into the game.


Related: Barbra's 1994 Concert Page