Wednesday, August 03, 2016

Barbra Streisand in concert

Seeing Barbra Streisand in concert is a big deal. A BIG deal. She rarely performs concerts. And when she does the tickets are usually $2000 a head. So I could either see Barbra Streisand once or Barbara Cook fifteen times for the same money. In the past I chose Barbara Cook (and was thrilled).

But last night Barbra Streisand was in concert at the Staples Center in Los Angeles. And plenty of good seats were available… on Gold Star and Stubb Hub. So my wife and I took the plunge.

Couple of things. I hate going down to the Staples Center. Traffic is a mess, parking is outrageous, no one ever invites me to a luxury box. I have not been to a Lakers game since they relocated to the Staples Center (and considering the state of the team, I don’t think I’ll be going anytime soon). But Barbra Streisand is an EVENT – one of those Bucket List experiences. I saw Sinatra but near the end when he couldn’t hit all the notes but still could remember all the words. Never saw the Beatles (although I have seen Ringo so that’s sort of like seeing the Beatles, right? Did not see Judy Garland. She was never playing at the Whiskey A’ Go Go or Valley Music Theatre or Reseda Park Love Ins – the venues I used to frequent.

Anytime Barbra Streisand makes an appearance it’s a major how-do-you-do. But who gives a shit if she doesn’t sing? “Here to present the award for Best Supporting Actress is Barbra Streisand.” Big whoop. Sing “Being Alive” – I’m setting my DVR.

Part of my issue with the Staples Center is getting there. So to avoid the gridlock traffic we took the Metro line. The cars were packed tighter than New York subways. Plus – this being SoCal – everybody had either bikes or strollers. And hey New York, we can match you for crazies. A drunk woman came in, sat down on the floor, and screamed for ten stops that that “N****’s and Mexican were coming for all of us. I thought I was at a Trump rally.

Surprisingly, there were empty seats at the Staples Center.  It was probably 2/3rds full. Maybe there was a rumor that she was going to sing the entire YENTL album. Adele is coming for eight shows later this month and I think she’s almost totally sold out. But the empty seats might be explained by the fact that Barbra had a “dress rehearsal” on Monday night for “invited” guests. From the looks of the Facebook photos, there were several thousand of them. Not being important enough in the industry I of course was not invited. And I should point out, that in my disc jockey days I had to play “Evergreen.”

As for the concert itself, she’s STREISAND. She has no peer. At 74 she can still bring it. There were some notes that were strained, especially when she was pushing, but that’s to be expected. And a lot of those gorgeous low notes and soaring high notes she still hit crystal clear. “Children Will Listen” and “People” absolutely took my breath away.

She sang selected songs from all her albums – ten number one albums over six decades – let’s see Miley Cyrus do that. The problem was, in the first half, there was a lot of fill. A magician came out for fifteen minutes. Who cares? And if there was a theme to her patter it was that she’s a control freak and it’s a good thing too because every time someone had the audacity to challenge something she wanted, Babs always proved to be right.

Hearing Barbra reminisce about her movie career made me realize, with the possible exception of THE WAY WE WERE and FUNNY GIRL, you see very few Barbra Streisand movies on TV anymore. How often do you see FUNNY LADY or UP THE SANDBOX or THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT or FOR PETE’S SAKE or A STAR IS BORN or THE MAIN EVENT or THE MIRROR HAS TWO FACES, OR NUTS or even YENTL listed (just to mention a bunch)?  Not to say they're bad (well, MAIN EVENT -- yeah), but for a legitimate Oscar-winning movie star, it's odd that so much of her work has disappeared into the mist. 

She brought out several surprise performers to do duets with her. These provided both the high and low points of the evening. First the high: Jamie Fox, who can really sing, did “Climb Every Mountain” with Barbra. They gave it kind of a soul arrangement, not unlike Disney’s “Beauty & the Beast,” but it was stirring and the two together were magic.

Now the low: Seth Fucking McFarlane came out to do a duet. He was, by the way, terrible. Hit a bunch of clunker notes. This was like a charity raffle winner getting to sing a song with Barbra Streisand.  What was he doing up there?   Imagine you paid top dollar to see a Super Bowl and Tom Brady throws a pass to me.

I will say this though. Everyone knows Ms. Streisand has a huge ego. It’s hard to believe anyone could get on the same stage as her and have a bigger one, but that’s Seth McFarlane. Baby Face also sang a song with her nibs. They did “Evergreen” so he was at a disadvantage.

When it comes to show stoppers, Streisand has the all-time greatest (okay, “all-time greatest” from singers who are still alive). When Barbra launched into “Don’t Rain On My Parade” the arena went bat shit. THAT was an electric moment. My first thought was, “Ohmygod, she’s doing it and I’m here to see it.” You don’t get that with Cher singing “You Better Sit Down Kids.” And at 74 she can still hit and hold that last note and blow the roof right off the building. THAT, ladies and gentlemen, is a STAR.

Streisand in concert is a once-in-a-lifetime experience. She’ll be touring the country this summer. If you’re near a big city where she’s appearing (I can’t see Barbra Streisand setting foot in any state that will vote for Trump), go see her. It was worth it just for “Children Will Listen.” But warning: the McFarlane duet is right after intermission so just hang back in the concourse for another ten minutes.

42 comments:

Mike Barer said...

As far as Beatles, I saw Ringo about 10 years ago and it was great, but a few years later, I saw Paul McCartney and he knocked it out of the park,

Brian Phillips said...

Friday Question: In Tony Randall and Michael Mindin's book, "Which Reminds Me", between anecdotes about other people, he mentioned some of his own acting experiences. He said that he had to do several takes of a scene and he did what he was supposed to do, but in a slightly different way, until the director was satisfied ("If you can't then you ain't no actor", I believe he said).

In the most pleasant way, which actors, while staying on script, could give you the most "takes", if they didn't nail it the first one or two times?

norm said...

You are so right Ken.
I looked it up her next shows are in - Las Vegas, San Jose, Chicago, Washington DC, Philly, Boston and just to make sure they don't vote Trump see her in Toronto CA.
I will say she is talented and I would probably vote for her before HRC.
3rd party here I come.

Igor said...

As I recall, Streisand did her Farewell, Goodbye, Really I'm Going Now, This is Your Last Chance, Did I Say "Farewell"? (I Don't Recall, So…) Farewell Tour some 20 years ago. So Ken, the only explanation must be you were watching a hologram. Right?

Anyway, about McFarlane, no arguments from me. But I will say it's nice that, because he loves Sinatra and big bands and the Boston Pops and so on, he's brought that music to Family Guy, seeding the youngins with it and so extending its life. And while I am specifically not a Sinatra fan, I am a fan of that music and so I give McFarlane some slack on his not-so-great attributes that you mentioned.

Roseann said...

You forgot to list.... On a Clear Day You Can See Forever (1970).

Another of Barbra's mega(not) hit movies.

Stephen Marks said...

Not fair, you get stuck using the subway while James Brolin rides the gravy train. Talk about a marriage of convenience....FOR HIM! It's got to be uncomfortable when two heavyweights come over for dinner, like the Clinton's, and after 4 hours of talking about their respective careers the three of them respectfully listen to James talk about Pensacola - Wings of Gold.
Awkwardddddddd! "Mr. and Mrs. Streisand, dinner is being served."

James Bolin is Joe Gillis from Sunset Boulevard.

Ms. Streisand is a wonderful woman, glad you finally saw her live Ken. I love The Mirror Has Two Faces, its excellent and so is she in it.

Kirk said...

I saw The Owl and the Pussycat on one of those digital channels tailored for baby-boomers. I was reminded that not only is she a great singer, but a great comic actress, too.

Andrew said...

I just don't get how Seth McFarlane is allowed to do any of this. He did one thing well, Family Guy. Who decided that he should try to act? Who decided that he should try to host an awards show? Who decided that he should try to sing? WTF is going on?

How on earth does he get to perform with Streisand, instead of any one of a million more deserving singers? A performance with Streisand could launch a career. Why would Streisand even agree to such a thing?

JonCow said...

You forgot the best of all Streisand movies, "What's Up, Doc"
with Ryan O'Neal, Madeline Kahn, Austin Pendleston and Kenneth Mars.

Astroboy said...

I know it's not the same (though it FEELS the same to me), but I'll be seeing Jeff Beck next Thursday, and that is something I wasn't sure would happen before one of us was dead! (But, damn, it's still a week away, a lot can happen...)

Wendy M. Grossman said...

To each his own...I never could stand Streisand's singing. (But I'm a trad folkie, so no surprise there; never cared for Sinatra either, while I'm shocking people.) The one movie of hers I have on DVD is THE OWL AND THE PUSSYCAT, which I think has held up pretty well (but then, George Segal). I'm not surprised if A STAR IS BORN isn't shown - the Judy Garland/James Mason version was infinitely better. YENTL's a little bigger surprise, but I suspect that it's not helped by the bland modern songs (a pity, though, because I thought Amy Irving was really good in it), (I never liked WHAT'S UP, DOC? either - I prefer the original screwball comedies to this movie, which feels to me like a remake or a mish-mash, or something.)

Seth McFarlane gets to perform with Streisand because he's contemporary and famous and in theory might help Streisand pull in a younger audience, presumably in either Streisand's own opinion or the opinion of the promoter.

It's true, though, that Streisand was the top star in every aspect of show business she chose to go into (as William Goldman points out in one of his books). For years, she was the only bankable female movie star...and could sell out Broadway...and Las Vegas...and put out albums that went platinum.

She may have known her limits in staying off TV.

wg

Anonymous said...

Back in the '60s I worked at Channel 9 when various movie showcases were their primary programming. One day I get a call from the Mid-day Movie host, Wayne Thomas, to come down to the set with my camera (I had done walk on promotions with him for various sponsors). He introduced me to this short, potbellied girl with a broken nose and a Brooklyn accent. Said she's going to be a BIG star. I thought to myself, "you gotta be kidding". Anyway, took a lot of pics and gave them to Wayne. The next week-end I'm in Vegas at the Riviera, Liberace is the headliner, and Barbara Striestand is the opener. And there she is on the diving board at the pool doing swim suite photos, pot belly and all. Who knew????

CPL said...

I'm a little surprised McFarlane was as bad as you say, rating a four letter word descriptor. He is one of the go-to "American crooners" these days (see the BBC Proms in-concert musicals or Sinatra tributes for the past 5 years). It feels as if he's trying too hard and straining himself sometimes, but it hasn't been truly terrible. Maybe his problem is sharing the stage with the real deal.

Jeff Maxwell said...

Great review. Felt like I was there. Hate that I missed her! Saw Sinatra at Universal before the roof went on, and Red Skelton in Reno. Frank mesmerized everybody even with a few cockeyed notes. For a solid hour, not a dry eye in Red's audience from crying laughing to just crying at his signature close. Funniest human I've ever seen on a stage.

These icons are for real. They touch our souls with grace and elegance and hope. I feel very fortunate to have seen a few. Maybe I'll drive to vegas for Barb.

Anonymous said...

Saw Sinatra at Universal Amp. with the roof on. He was way overweight and off key. It was hard to sit through.

Stuart Gellman said...

A little jealous of Mr. McFarlane? With Family Guy humor all the rage while Frazier/M.A.S.H. type humor kind of out of date.

Donald said...

A Friday question:: A spec script for a 9/11 episode of "Seinfeld" has gone viral. What do you think? Still too soon? As a comedy writer, is there anything you consider off-limits?

http://splitsider.com/2016/08/this-seinfeld-911-spec-script-is-insane-and-incredible/

Anonymous said...

Barbra has one of the great voices of this generation, but hasn't she been oversinging everything since about 1970?
it seems she is determined to demonstrate her vocal range on songs that don't require it.When she did her first TV special "My Name is Barbra" she was understated for the most part. Over time she stopped that.
Compare People or an older version of Don't Rain on My Parade with the way she does songs today (although in truth she has been doing it for a while). She just belts them out like Ethel Merman whether its' good for the song or not.

sanford said...

Like the first comment I also saw Ringo and his all stars. And I saw McCartney a couple of years ago. He is still great. I screwed up and for got to get tickets when he was at summerfest in Milwaukee this year. On a side note a Hard Days Night was on TMC Sunday. I had to wonder if John and George were still around if they would have ever gotten together again. The money is so huge now with merchandise and everything, I don't know how they could have passed it up. As for Mcfarlane I think he sang on the emmys and he wasn't bad. Maybe he just had a bad night.

There was a good article the Times today about Streisand. I think the tour she is on his pretty short

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Red Skelton! Now you're talking. I'm not deaf to *all* stars. :)

I am very pleased to say that my "life list" of actors seen live on stage includes Ingrid Bergman, Katharine Hepburn, Rex Harrison, Julie Andrews (in those original Broadway musical casts), Claudette Colbert, Diana Rigg (many times), Maggie Smith (ditto), Glenda Jackson, Judi Dench, Roger Rees, Tom Conti, Jack Lemmon, Zero Mostel (the original production of FIDDLER ON THE ROOF), Robert Morse, Peter O'Toole (in several awesome productions of Shaw plays), and Jimmy Stewart (in the 1970 Broadway revival of HARVEY).

wg

Peter Zucker said...

If it's possible to admire someone's talent, work and fortitude yet not like their stuff, for me it would be Babs.

bruce said...

The best concert I ever went to was in Spring 1972, in my junior year at Caltech. The "4 for McGovern" political fundraiser at the Fabulous Forum, the old Lakers arena in Inglewood. The performers were Carole King, James Taylor and Barbra Streisand, with Quincy Jones and his Orchestra. I wasn't a huge fan of Barbra's at the time, but she gave a great show.

Dixon Steele said...

I've always had mixed feelings about Barbra, but I saw her in concert in Brooklyn a few years and she truly killed. Impressive.

Anonymous said...

Funny Girl is one of her best, in my opinion, and the music is brilliant.Janice B.

Don K. said...

If you've seen Ringo go see McCartney, then get back to us, no pun intended.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, JonCow, for mentioning What's Up, Doc? Saw that on my last night at college because we had a couple of house to kill before the best Frat party EVER. We were still giggling at the movie when we got home at 6am.

I sobbed and sobbed at The Way We Were because I knew deep in my soul that was how my then boyfriend and I would end up. Hey, I was 17.

Nothing beats Barbra singing People, Don't Rain on My Parade, and especially, My Man.

Pam, St. Louis

normadesmond said...

actually, lots of barbra's movies show up on tv. i've paused on most you mentioned. i don't
recall noticing, "up the sandbox" on tv because i saw it in the theatre & once was enough.

i've loved her music since i was a kid, but i would never, ever pay those ticket
prices. besides, i once sat & watched her eat dinner, so, i've kind of seen her in person.

Anonymous said...

Gee. a limited tour of large cities right after the Democratic Convention,
Wonder if Babs is just mixing a late singing with her campaigning.

Rick said...

Actually she conquered TV soon after Broadway's "Funny Girl", with three or four critically acclaimed Emmy Award winning musical presentations such as "My Name Is Barbara".

Steve said...

"She sang selected songs from all her albums – ten number one albums over six decades – let’s see Miley Cyrus do that. "

Wikipedia tells me that so far she is at six in one decade, so I wouldn't be shocked if she manages four more by 2066... but then a number 1 album may not be the accomplishment it used to be.

The Bumble Bee Pendant said...

The ticket prices and possibly her ego and politics may have had something to do with the empty seats.

I do own a box set of her songs.

Mike Barer said...

I saw Bette Midler, last year, kind of a poor man's Barbara Streisand.

Donald said...

Ken, please allow me to respond to Stuart Gellman. Stuart, the character-based humor of Frasier and M*A*S*H, like moonlight and love songs, are never out of date. And this is not a knock on "Family Guy"; to each their own, but topical humor has a limited shelf life. Let's see how well all those pop culture references play with future generations befuddled by a Denise Crosby gag.

Larry V said...

The reason Barbra's movies aren't played on TV as much these days is that, with the exception of recent stuff like The Guilt Trip or the Fockers movies, they've aged out of the syndication packages. Her biggest hits are too old for the basic cable channels, so you are only going to see them on classic stations if at all. And this is where time begins to render judgment, and the wheat gets separated from the chaff. So Funny Girl and The Way We Were get played (I've noticed both on TCM fairly regularly) while Up the Sandbox and The Owl and the Pussycat disappear.....even if they aren't bad movies, they aren't loved the way the first two are.

That may change. Movies' reputations go up and down over time, so you never know.

I wish What's Up Doc was shown more often on TV, so that young audiences could latch on to it - that one is a classic, IMO.

Funny thing about the score of Yentl - it works in context, while you are watching the movie, but I can't think of any individual numbers that I'd particularly want to
hear in concert.

I laughed at your suggestion that Babs wouldn't want to set foot in a state that would vote for Trump. Judging by the latest polls, it looks like she might be able to go on a 50 state tour.

Kent Morgan said...

Before Streisand became famous, she was booked into a club here in Winnipeg called the Town and Country. The club owner Ben Hatskin, who later owned the Winnipeg Jets hockey club, fired her partway through the booking. It's never been clear why, but reports were that he didn't feel that she dressed well enough for his club. Other reports were that he didn't like her singing. I've always been sorry that I missed her gig. The incident is briefly mentioned in one of the books about Streisand.

MikeK.Pa. said...

After this review, if you don't get box seats, courtesy of Babs, I'll be shocked.
I have similar feelings for her as I do Sinatra; love the performer, but not the person.

CRL said...

Ken, if you needed tickets, Jan Smithers might have been able to hook you up.

I believe she's got connections.....

Pat Reeder said...

Here's where you and I are different: I'd love to see Seth MacFarlane live, but not if I had to sit through an evening of Barbra Streisand. I spent several years as an AC radio DJ and grew to intensely dislike her over-the-top stuff. Every time I had to play "Woman in Love," I was reminded of the Nuremberg Rallies.

I think I know why "For Pete's Sake" never gets revived. As a kid, I liked "What's Up Doc" so much that I went to see "For Pete's Sake," thinking it would be similar. I've never seen it again since, but I still remember walking out of the theater stunned at what an aggressively unfunny turdball it was. That was 41 years ago, and the memory of its awfulness has stayed with me like a childhood trauma.

philosophymom said...

Number me with those surprised at the level of disdain for Seth MacFarlane in this context. Now, I can't stand "Family Guy" (and can't speak to the topic of the man's ego), but I really enjoyed Seth in concert last year singing standards with my city's symphony orchestra. He knew his way around the songs and demonstrated real respect for classic arrangements. He may have had an off night at your concert -- I wasn't there -- but including him on the program would hardly be on the level of raffling off a duet.

Craig Gustafson said...

I like Seth MacFarlane. HOWEVER... He's got nice voice. He sounds great on the stuff he sings for "Family Guy." What he doesn't have is star power. He could bring the house down at karaoke, but I saw him do "Ya Got Trouble" from "The Music Man." He was just performing it, which is death with a song like that; you have to act it. It has to be urgent. He was just singing and enjoying his own performance. So rather than being Robert Preston, he's more Jack Jones.

Anonymous said...

A fan of Barbra for years.. Put her on my Bucket List... Im a recent widow, recently retired but still came up with the $$ for her Ticket Price at TD Garden Boston, Ma. Was not disappointed with performance. she was magnificent.. three quarters thru this great event She turned it into a Political rally for HRC..Im a democrat, but my politcal views were on hold that night.. Unfortunate that she didnt put her views on hold.. I could have gone to a Politcal rally for nothing.. She ruined my nite with her views.. Too much $$ Like $525.00 per ticket. Will be certain to redo my bucket list..

normadesmond said...

listened to her this morning w/scott simon on NPR. seems "siri" on iPhones says her name incorrectly. she's been in touch with mr. cook & the next iPhone update will have siri saying, "STREISUND" instead of the horrific & incorrect "STREISAND."

how can anyone stand to have anything to do with her?