Barbra: The Music, The Mem’ries, The Magic
August 16, 2016
- Overture/Video Package
- The Way We Were
- Being at War with Each Other
- You Don't Bring Me Flowers
- Woman in Love
- Stoney End
- Enough is Enough
- Children Will Listen
- Being Alive
- Papa, Can You Hear Me?
Intermission: Lior Suchard (Master Mentalist works his amazing mind tricks on the audience)
- Pure Imagination
- Encore Video Package
- Who Can I Turn To? (with Anthony Newley)
- Losing My Mind
- Isn't This Better?
- How Lucky Can You Get?
- Don't Rain On My Parade
- Happy Days Are Here Again
- With One More Look At You
Intermission videos: Fight the LadyKiller video; Butterfly album commercial; My Name is Barbra commercial.
Barbra Streisand enchants with career-spanning show
By Maura Johnston
It’s probably not too surprising that Barbra Streisand, playing Boston for the first time in about a decade, received a standing ovation as soon as she hit the TD Garden stage on Tuesday night. She’s a doyenne of American pop with a novel-length discography and a seemingly insatiable creative appetite, and a voice that can belt as convincingly as it can turn almost completely inward.
But Streisand’s talent doesn’t just come from her ability to remake the American songbook in her own image; she’s also a savvy businesswoman with a will of steel. Tuesday’s show was a run not just through her biggest hits but also her career. Powered by kaffee-klatsch banter and unforgettable songs like the show-opening ballad “The Way We Were,” Streisand retraced her journey from Brooklyn to Malibu, from PTA assemblies to presidential audiences.
Watching Streisand observe her directors on “Funny Girl” and “The Way We Were” during a cinematic montage that she narrated live, and then seeing her put that instruction to use while behind the camera for “Yentl” and “The Prince of Tides,” was a testament to artistic tenacity. Even her upcoming album, “Encore,” which comes out Aug. 26 and was plugged with a mini-infomercial midway through the show, has her directing marquee names from Hollywood (Melissa McCarthy and Hugh Jackman among them) in duets borrowed from Broadway shows.
“I like to look forward and not back,” Streisand said at one point. She was talking about the autobiography she’s currently writing, but that observation could have easily applied to the way she paired songs from her catalog with modern problems. She recontextualized the Carole King-penned “Being At War With Each Other” by pairing it with images from Baton Rouge and present-day gay-rights rallies; the dreamy “Pure Imagination,” from the early-’70s fantasia “Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,” was transformed into a look at the world’s wondrousness, an implicit warning against ignoring environmental change. A staunch Democrat, Streisand made no bones about who she’d be pulling the lever for in November – although she did thank those Republicans who’d bought tickets despite their political differences.
If anything could bridge the chasms that have cracked open during this election cycle, it’s Streisand’s voice, which has weathered ever so slightly but still has the emotional depth and careful phrasing that drew in audiences all those years ago. “Funny Girl”-borne tracks like the romance-dreched “People” and the defiant “Don’t Rain on My Parade” — not to mention other Streisand-fronted standards like “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” — would no doubt be singalongs at other artists’ concerts. But on Tuesday, the audience wanted nothing more than to soak up Streisand’s voice, knowing that the opportunity to do so was rare and worth treasuring.
TD Garden Concert: Streisand, at 74, still has a wondrous voice At “Barbra: The Music ... The Mem'ries ... The Magic!”, iconic entertainer takes the audience through decades of amazing songs.
By Andy Smith
BOSTON — Barbra Streisand paid a triumphant visit to a nearly sold-out TD Garden on Tuesday night, conducting a guided tour of her long career in a show titled “Barbra: The Music ... The Mem’ries ... The Magic!”
The title may have been clunky, but the show was anything but. For a 74-year- old singer, Streisand still possesses a wondrous voice. True, she can’t quite hit the effortless highs she could in her youth, and there was just the occasional touch of roughness by the end of the show.
But Streisand showed she could still hit the high, hard one, and, perhaps more importantly, control the high soft one.
And she is not only a superb singer but a musical actress who knows how to communicate the emotion within a lyric. Not every 74-year-old can convincingly sing as a lovestruck twenty-something.
She mixed up the songs everyone wanted to hear, such as “People,” “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and plenty of Stephen Sondheim, with some unexpected pleasures. She dredged up “Isn’t This Better” from “Funny Lady,” for example.
Along the way, she bantered easily from the stage, telling backstage stories about the songs, and working in a few obligatory jabs at Donald Trump and campaign plugs for Hillary Clinton.
Looking svelte in a spangly pantsuit, she opened with “The Way We Were.” She did a version of Carole King’s “Being at War With Each Other” while the big screens at TD Garden showed scenes that ranged from Vietnam to current Black Lives Matter protests.
During the first half of the 2½-hour show, Streisand was superb on “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen.” (Streisand is a wonderful Sondheim interpreter.)
She closed the first half with “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from "Yentl," daring to open the song with a scene of her much-younger self singing the beginning of the song.
The second half included “Pure Imagination,” from “Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory,” which Streisand turned into a plea for the environment, and an impressive version of “Losing My Mind” from “Follies” (there’s Sondheim again).
She brought out the big guns for the close, including “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “People,” a slow take on “Happy Days Are Here Again” and finally “With One More Look at You.”
The show did have a few flaws. Just before the second half of her show, Streisand brought out a “mentalist” named Lior Suchard, who was completely superfluous. She did a throwaway disco-style segment early in her show that leaned heavily on her three backup singers.
And she did one of those duets-with-the-dead, via video, with Anthony Newley on “Who Can I Turn to (When Nobody Needs Me)." I've never liked those before, and this one didn’t change my mind.
Still, for a singer who boasts of hit albums over a remarkable six decades, Streisand continues to impress with her vocal power, poise and presence.
Barbra Streisand takes a trip down memory lane in Boston show
By Jay N. Miller
There was a bit of Broadway, a bit of Hollywood, some Las Vegas-style production, lots of classic show business, and plenty of the inimitable Barbra Tuesday night at the TD Garden in Boston, as Barbra Streisand’s “The Music, The Mem’ries, the Magic” delighted a crowd of about 14,000 fans.
Streisand, 74, hasn’t toured in quite a few years, but this August swing (Tuesday night was the eighth stop) is geared to the August 26 release of her new album, “Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway,” in which she duets with stars like Jamie Foxx, Seth McFarlane, and Melissa McCarthy. Streisand performed two 50-minute sets, with a 13-piece orchestra and three backup vocalists, and her 20-song setlist covered a wide selection of her long career of hits. Streisand has had the incredible success of number one hits in six decades.
Musically, Streisand sounded in fine voice, and while you can speculate that she may have lost some of her range, she covered any shortcomings so skillfully it was never evident. Mainly, Tuesday night she sang in a style that could often be characterized as cooing and crooning, softly singing the romantic ballads in a way that made them seem personal and even intimate, despite the size of the arena. That approach made it all the more impressive when she occasionally belted it out with her full-throated power, which seemed undiminished.
The production was flawless of course, with the orchestra arrayed behind her on the upper level of the two-tired stage, and a huge video screen behind the stage. Streisand spent most of her night strolling along the front of the stage, occasionally sitting in a chair at stage center, and bantering with fans in the front rows.
If you were sitting far enough up front you could look over your shoulder and see the large teleprompter running the lyrics to the songs, and even the basic outlines of her between-songs stories. She didn’t seem to be reading the lines at any point, and it really wasn’t a distraction. If she is probably telling similar versions of the same stories at every stop, with the same laugh lines, Streisand is such a pro that she makes it work and seem off-the-cuff.
But basically, where that combination of storytelling and subtle singing really connected was that it humanized Streisand. With hefty ticker prices and a multi-decade legendary career spanning all facets of show business, making Streisand seem like a real person can’t be an easy task, but Tuesday night she largely accomplished that.
The night opened with Streisand doing a whispery take on “The Way We Were,” dressed in a black top and black slacks, with her long, brownish-blonde hair falling over her shoulders. The lyrical nuances she expressed there were terrific, and if the high notes near the finish maybe weren’t as high as they were 40 years ago, her intonation was so good you hardly noticed. It’s also worth noting that Streisand still has marvelous articulation, so that when she is singing some of these classic tunes, you can revel in not just the music but also the beauty of the words.
Streisand spoke of her special memories of Boston, including long-ago trips to Durgin Park for Indian Pudding, and noted she’d last been in town to see her step-daughter Molly graduate from Berklee College of Music. Impressed by the graduation speaker, Professor Henry Tate, she’d chatted with him and mentioned she was heading over to the Museum of Fine Arts. He replied that he was the curator there, and offered a private tour, which included his detailed background on all the paintings and other art. That sort of thing doesn’t happen to most of us, but it was still a cool anecdote.
Streisand did “Everything” from the movie “A Star Is Born,” and when the song ended, with the old movie poster of her and co-star Kris Kristofferson, both shown from the waist up, apparently naked and embracing, she got off one of her funniest lines. “Someone asked me what I was wearing below that camera line,” said Streisand. “I told them, musk.”
A power ballad trip through Carole King’s “Being At War With Each Other” was accompanied by a video sequence of scenes of violence, war and discord. Stereisand still can inject layers of hurt and regret into “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers,” which worked that low-key approach, but also burst into more expansive choruses. Three of the night’s most energetic songs got mashed together in almost a medley, as “Woman in Love,” Laura Nyro’s “Stoney End,” and “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough),” the song done originally as a duet with Donna Summer, became a bright, poppy workout enhanced by the three backup singers coming down to the main stage to provide some dancing as well. That was an electric moment, and extending all of those three tunes would’ve been justified.
Streisand followed that up with a hushed rendition of “Evergreen,” and an affecting treatment of Stephen Sondheim’s “Children Will Listen.” A soulfully vibrant “Being Alive” led into a song from the movie “Yentl,” as “Papa Can You Hear Me?” featured some of the star’s most intimately delivered vocals.
There would be a 40-minute break between sets, but half of that time was taken up by magician/mentalist Lior Shuman, who did several tricks where he guessed audience member’s first loves, and so on. Streisand came out for the second set wearing a floor-length gray gown, with gold trim. The second half would also include a few more political jibes, such as the global warming videos accompanying the dreamy “Pure Imagination” that prompted her to note “that’s why we have to vote for someone who believes in climate change.”
None of those duet partners were in Boston last night – Foxx and MacFarlane did show up at the L.A. show – but the night’s only duet was a memorable one, as Streisand sang “Who Can I Turn To?” with a life-size video of Anthony Newley, in what was as strikingly perfect a production as those things can be. “Funny Girl’s” song “Isn’t This Better” was an apt lead-in for “How Lucky Can You Get,” and both tunes rode arrangements that were big band swing at its finest. More movie clips accompanied a sizzling “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” which earned a standing ovation.
Streisand introduced pianist and bandleader Randy Waldman before the first encore, which was a lovely and low-key “People,” which gradually surged up into a big dynamic finish. Speaking of which, Streisand took time to thank Republicans for continuing to come to her shows, “even though you know I’m a staunch Democrat.” It didn’t seem there were many GOPers in the room, and any mention of Hillary Clinton brought rousing cheers from the 14,000. Noting that she’d done the next song for three presidents (JFK, LBJ, and Bill Clinton), Streisand said she hopes to do it for another next year, before belting out a swinging “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
The night ended with a sweet and wistful version of “With One More Look at You,” as clips and photos of the young Streisand and Kristofferson were shown on the screens, giving everyone a moment to recall how impossibly vibrant and romantic that pair looked, so long ago.
Fan Review by Richard Audet
Early in her Boston concert Tuesday night, Barbra Streisand reminisced about this city, in keepingwith the "Mem'ries" theme of her current tour. She noted that both her Broadway musicals came here for their out-of-town tryouts in the sixties. She recalled the eatery Durgin Park from those days, and her fondness for its signature Indian pudding. More recently, she attended the graduation of a relative at Berklee, and squeezed in a tour of the Museum of Fine Arts. Evoking nostalgia for events of yesteryear, combined with an awareness of the here and now, her patter synchronized beautifully with the mix of the familiar and the new in her performance choices.
This is the third time I have attended a Streisand concert (the other two were New York in 1994 and Boston a decade ago). For anyone lucky enough to have attended her previous concert tours, the inevitable thought is whether this experience will match those. Trust me, it does, in some respects maybe more so. First of all,the smaller scale of this outing (fewer musicians, more confined performing space) results in a more intimate feel, a more confiding Barbra sharing personal stories, which slide into decades of musical stories, including new ones, where the performer and the actress take over in one remarkable piece after another.
No small achievement, to make a concert in a sports arena feel intimate. Barbra paused at one point to observe that she likes the TD Garden, because the seating is broader and lower than some other arenas, and she didn’t have to crane her neck to take in the people in the upper balconies. As for the people in the front rows, she quickly took note of two fans wearing neon tops. (Word to the wise: if you want Barbra to spot you, wear neon.)
So Barbra knows how to work the arena, and to reach out and acknowledge the audience in a personal way. But that's technique. The deeper intimacy occurs because you feel drawn in, not just by the magic and power of her voice but by the "actress who sings," who makes you hear the words and the subtext she is finding in the words. Toward the end of the evening Barbra said something to the effect that she was taking in, and feeling, the love of the audience, but that really was going two ways. Barbra is not some remote icon touring to be worshipped, but a great musical artist, actually just "artist" in the best sense, that is, one who grows and grows everytime you "experience" her, and is not complacent about her gifts orher laurels. She is not looking to be indulged, as some older performers do, for "the way she was." You come away with a recognition not just of the ongoing beauty of the talent, or of the depth of her unique creativity, but with an appreciation for creativity for its own sake, which is what she is really about. That's her super power.
Now to get down to details. She looks great. No, she looks amazing. As for her voice, it cannot be fully appreciated until you hear it live. I was struck by an observation Liz Smith wrote recently that these concerts allow fans to understand what made Barbra a legend from the beginning of her career – the experience of hearing her in person. There are moments in the concert that are just startling. The vocal smoothness giving way to confident belting and back again. Even when there seems to be a moment of struggling, of resistance, you are privileged to see how she masters the challenge of keeping the voice right where she wants it.
Act One is mainly about Barbra in the seventies, and then veers into the Sondheim selections from the Broadway albums, and a moving"Papa Can You Hear Me?" from Yentl. Act Two has some of the material from the new album. I thought her solo of "Pure Imagination" was thrilling, matched by what I think is the definitive interpretation of Sondheim's "Losing My Mind" from Follies. She officially owns that song now.
She noted that she has enjoyed "revisiting" the two songs from Funny Lady, and that she thinks she has found more in them now than she did the first time around, and she's right, especially on "Isn't This Better?" Then comes"How Lucky Can You Get?" immediately topped by Funny Girl's "Don't Rain on My Parade," and the confidencein her voice rising to, and meeting, the demands of these numbers is way exciting.
The intimacy does not mean a diminishment of Barbra's theatricality, thank goodness. The large video screen behind her was used in a very versatile way, sometimes for visual effects such as a lush Follies-era burlesque red as she did "Losing My Mind," or a rose border with petals drifting down the screen as she did "Evergreen." The lighting effects managed much the same, especially the disco lighting for the medley of "Woman in Love/Stoney End/Enough Is Enough" with three backup singers.
Barbra mentioned she is working on an autobiography, and it struck me that all the anecdotes between songs are the inevitable side-benefit of that endeavor. The genesis of a couple of her album covers, her reaction to first hearing "People," her attempt to be "hip" in the seventies, and the frustrating comic discovery that even "Siri" the Apple know-it-all "assistant" can't pronounce "Streisand" correctly – all this adds up to amusing and telling stories that will probably fit in perfectly in her memoir.
At any rate, thank you Barbra for the music, the mem'ries, and all that never-ending magic – over fifty years of it for this fan.
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