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.”
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.