Monday, August 05, 2019

Barbra Streisand Brings It Home

What a rush it was Saturday evening to get a text from a blog fan-cum-friend asking me if Damian and I would like two free tickets to see Barbra Streisand, in her first performance at Madison Square Garden in 13 years. There was no catch -- they were comps to begin with that would otherwise be going to waste -- other than the fact that it was 7 p.m. and we were at dinner with a friend in Chelsea and would need to be at the venue by 8. Naturally we dropped everything and headed uptown -- a quick three stops on the 1 train. (Brooklyn may be all the rage but I'll always take Manhattan.) 

My pal Jimmy and his friend John had great seats -- one friend had fallen ill while another seemed to have flaked -- so we were even more excited than we already were at the prospect of seeing Mrs. Brolin  live for the very first time. And before the show even got going, the crowd was worked up into a tizzy at the arrival of Bill and Hillary Clinton, Jerry Nadler, David Dinkins and Al Sharpton! (Mariah Carey was also reportedly there, although I didn't spot her.) 

A message last week from my brother  ...

My relationship with Ms. Streisand dates back to the early 1970s -- to my earliest memories of seeing "What's Up, Doc?" with my family, a film we would watch over and over again throughout my life. More scandalously my Aunt Linda (rather inappropriately but mostly unwittingly) took my brothers and me to see "Jaws' in 1975 -- I was 8 -- only it turned out to be a double feature with "The Owl and the Pussycat," in which Barbra played a part-time prostitute. (The film had come out fives years before, but in the days before home video it wasn't uncommon for movie houses to pair older titles with current ones as double features.) From there, "The Way We Were" ripped my young gay heart out. Then pork-belly futures were never the same after "For Pete's Sake," followed by Patti D'Arbanville's chronic hack and Barbra's envelope-licking paper cut, both of which still have me in tears from "The Main Event"! 

And I was surely the only kid at Rhodes Junior High to cope with the Iran hostage crisis by counting down the days till the release of “All Night Long.” (Even Siskel and Ebert on PBS’s “Sneak Previews” couldn’t scare me off.) As an adult I saw “The Prince of Tides” on Thanksgiving 1991 with my friend Mark on the Third Street Promenade in Santa Monica, after attending a dinner party at my neighor’s on South Bundy Drive where a guest “innocently” brandished a revolver sending guests fleeing; “The Mirror Has Two Faces” with Mark and Brad at Fashion Island in Newport Beach around Thanksgiving 1996; and “Meet the Fockers” with my siblings in Ahwatukee on Christmas 2004.

All of this is to say that I had never seen Barbra live in part because -- gay gasp! -- I'm really a superfan of her movies more than her music. (Perhaps her spastic version of "Jingle Bells" on my parents' "A Christmas Album" 8-track is partially to blame!) Which isn't to say I'm not a fan of her singing -- who isn't? But when she started to tour again -- Teleprompter in tow! -- I had a feeling she would be putting on a show that would be incredible, but perhaps not quite what I was wanting from her. Sure enough, Saturday’s set list was heavy on standards and show tunes -- all fabulous -- yet a little voice in my head kept whispering: You know what would really sound great for her to sing? A Barbra Streisand song ... or at least what a child of the 1970s and ‘80s thinks is a Barbra Streisand song!

And to be fair, she did sing some. "People," "Evergreen" and "The Way We Were" reduced me to tears. But "Comin' In and Out of Your Life" never came into mine that night, nor did "The Main Event/Fight," which is undoubtedly Barbra’s funnest song. (Being 77 doesn't seem to have slowed her down at all, so I was hoping for some satin shorts and a makeshift boxing ring!) Damian is younger and knows considerably less about Barbra's catalog. But "Enough Is Enough" and "Guilty" (my all-time favorite) are mainstays on his jukebox playlist, so when both of them were truncated into a quick medley, he (and I) were equally crestfallen. He rationalized that they had both been duets originally, but "Woman in Love" -- another Barbra pop classic -- would definitely be given the full treatment. But that was not meant to be. ("Songbird" never landed, "What Kind of Fool" was foolishly discarded and she didn't send me or anyone else flowers anymore, although New Wave Babs in the "Emotion" video made a cameo on the screen behind her!) 

But if all this sounds like a lot of complaining for great seats at no charge, please don't take it that way. Like most mortals, I could listen to Barbra sing Huey Lewis and the News covers all night. There will never be another voice like hers. And watching her fall in love with herself over and over again as photos from an upcoming memoir were projected on a huge screen was worth the trip alone. Plus “Send in the Clowns" (and the "Who Is This Clown?" Trump parody!), "The Man That Got Away," "Alfie" and a dozen others were hardly filler, officially converting me into a more well-rounded Barbra Streisand queen. (Thanks again, Jimmy!)

“Who Is This Clown?”

He says he’s rich
Maybe he’s poor
‘Til he reveals his returns
Who can be sure
Who is this clown?

Something’s amiss
I don’t approve
Now that he’s running the free world
Where can we move?
Maybe a town!
Just who is this clown?

This is not a farce
It’s not just smoke
Is this his “Art of the Deal” or some awful joke?
You’ve got to admit
This fraudulent twit
Is so full of …

More photos HERE.

Act 1 
As If We Never Said Goodbye (Andrew Lloyd Webber)
Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home (Harold Arlen & Johnny Mercer)
Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?) (Billie Holiday)
The Man That Got Away (Harold Arlen)
Evergreen (Love Theme from "A Star Is Born")
With One More Look at You

Guilty (Barry Gibb)/Stoney End (Laura Nyro)/Woman in Love (Barry Gibb)/No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)

Second Hand Rose ("Fanny Brice")
Don't Rain on My Parade (Jule Styne)

Act II 
On a Clear Day (You Can See Forever) (Burton Lane)
The Way We Were
You've Got to Be Carefully Taught / Children Will Listen
Send in the Clowns (Stephen Sondheim)
People (Jule Styne)
My Man ("Fanny Brice")
Sing (Joe Raposo; says she used to sing with her son, Jason Gould, watching "Sesame Street")
Happy Days Are Here Again (Milton Ager)

What the World Needs Now Is Love (Burt Bacharach/Hal David) 

Encore 2: 
Alfie (BacharachDavid)

P.S. Thanks to Spotify, I now “own” most of Barbra’s albums. Might be time to dig in deeper.

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