Babs is back, and how!
Michael Quinn 2007
Barbra Streisand is back. Golden of hair and voice, the Brooklyn-born songstress wowed American audiences and critics late last year with a record-breaking arena tour that confirmed for devotees and doubters alike her status as a living legend. This slickly-packaged two-disc souvenir of that sell-out tour arrives on the eve of her first (and already sold-out) tour of the UK in 13 years.
As live albums go, this has to rate with the best. Seamlessly stitched together from five nights in three venues (in Washington, Fort Lauderdale and New York’s Madison Square Garden), it’s a beautifully recorded, if occasionally overly manicured, offering that showcases one of the most distinctive and compelling – and still, at the age of 65, astonishingly supple – of contemporary voices. That she makes it all seem so effortlessly, elegantly easy says as much about her infamous attention to detail as it does about her impeccable sense of showmanship.
Co-produced by Streisand with longtime A&R associate Jay Landers, the discs follow the same song sequence as the concerts and among obligatory standards from the back catalogue are four songs never before recorded by the self-styled ‘actor turned singer’.
Backed by a crack 58-piece orchestra, Streisand sounds relaxed, on top form and never less than in total control. Among the many highlights are a glowing, gossamer-light “The Way We Were”, a wistfully euphoric “People” and an anthemic “Evergreen” accompanied by operatic crossover quartet Il Divo, who pop up again on a blissful rendition of West Side Story’s “Somewhere” and a crowd-pleasingly dreamy “Music of the Night” from Phantom Of The Opera.
The inclusion of Streisand’s own spoken introductions and ad-lib interactions with a clearly adoring audience add to the sense of an astonishingly intimate occasion, one heightened by a pristine, studio-quality you-are-there recording.
All that’s missing is the controversial skit with a George Bush look-alike that provoked one incensed audience member to throw his drink at the Democrat-leaning diva. For that you’ll have to wait for the DVD. In the meantime, here’s a relishable and recommendable record of a unique vocal talent to rank alongside the likes of Sinatra and Elvis, and whose like we may not ever see – or hear – again…