With last night's concert in Berlin, Barbra Streisand said auf wiedersehen to Europe forever. In fact, apart from two last concerts in Israel, she is saying goodbye to live concerts altogether.
This is Streisand's fourth tour since returning to live performances in 1973 after a 27 year absence. If she waits another 6 years – that seems to be her touring rhythm – she will be 77-years-old.
I hate to say this, but this is probably the last time that I'll be here.
Though she quipped,
But never say never… The opera is not over until the fat lady sings, and I'm not so fat!
However, Streisand, the perfectionist, must hate it when her voice lets her down, and sometimes it does. She has the technique to get out of those sticky situations when her famous pipes produce a raucous sound toward the upper-middle register, and when the intonation goes slightly awry, but it must be extraordinarily stressful. The magic is all there with her trademark long-held notes, breathy intros, squeezed out pianissimo high notes, nasal tones, held consonants through closed lips, wide-open forte belts, the accent, the grin, the banter, the hair, the nails. Above all, each song is a mini scene, a short story which she tells beautifully, touchingly, excitingly: from Enough is Enough to My Funny Valentine.
Snippets of the greatest hits were present, including Evergreen (for which she won an Oscar for Best Song) but also Lost Inside Of You, the ‘other' song she wrote for A Star is Born. People and The Way We Were are obligatory for a Streisand concert, but her Rose's Turn from Gypsy was surprisingly gutsy and well-judged; her thanks to the audience for being so faithful over the years was rewarded with the reflective Here's to Life, with a raised teacup on the line “… And here's to you”; and the last encore, added in for Berlin, was a tear-jerking rendition of Send in the Clowns.
Another surprise was hearing both her son, Jason Gould, and her younger sister, Roslyn Kind, singing duets with their more famous family member. Kind is a singer in her own right, but Gould is just talking his first steps (at 46) as a vocalist, and what an excellent voice he has, with phrasing coming straight from his mother. An crackling audio clip of Streisand's own mother singing, showed that there was something magical in that Brooklyn DNA.
As Babs was reading out questions and comments on cards from audience members, she came to one which asked, “Did you go to today's Gay Festival in Berlin?”, to which the (almost inevitable) answer was, “No, because I knew you'd all be here tonight!” There is a very strong gay and lesbian element to her audience, spanning the generations; then there are the husbands and wives who fell in love to her songs, and are of Streisand's age, or more; and, pleasingly, there are families with children too. Though a family outing to a Streisand concert must leave a whopping hole in the weekly family budget.
During her comments about the environment, an issue close to her heart, (“to plant trees, even though we won't benefit from the shade” for our children's, children… etc), a chorus with soloists entered to join her for the end of Bernstein's Candide: Make Our Garden Grow. From then on, every encore became a finale.
With her last note, after almost two-and-a-half hours of singing and striding around on heels, she said,
I will never forget you.
And with that, she turned in her red Dracula cape, and walked toward the darkness under the backlighting, and the sunny Malibu beach which lay beyond.
Set List – O2 World Berlin – 15 June 2013
You'll Never Know (projection of photos from a baby to Funny Girl with recording of Streisand at 13 which morphs into a mature recording)
Overture (from Funny Girl)
On a Clear Day You Can See Forever
Nice ‘n Easy / That Face
Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered
Woman in Love
Nature Boy (short film by Jason Gould made for Streisand's 70th birthday, with him singing to photos with his mother over the years)
How Deep Is the Ocean (with Jason Gould)
Morning Prayer (sung and written by Jason Gould)
The Way He Makes Me Feel
Enough is Enough (No More Tears)
The Way We Were / Through the Eyes of Love
Rose's Turn / Some People / Don't Rain on My Parade
Intro (clip from the end of Funny Girl, with Omar Sharif)
What I'll Do (with Chris Botti)
Lost Inside Of You (with Chris Botti)
Emanuel (performed by Chris Botti with Lucia Micarelli)
Here's to Life
Make Our Garden Grow (with Jason Gould, Chris Botti, Lucia Micarelli & Roslyn Kind)
Smile (with Roslyn Kind)
Happy Days Are Here Again
Some Other Time
Send in the Clowns
Graham Spicer is a writer, director and photographer in Milan, blogging (under the name ‘Gramilano') about dance, opera, music and photography for people “who are a bit like me and like some of the things I like”. He was a regular columnist for Opera Now magazine and wrote for the BBC until transferring to Italy.
His scribblings have appeared in various publications from Woman's Weekly to Gay Times, and he wrote the ‘Danza in Italia' column for Dancing Times magazine.