“Hello, Brooklyn!” Barbra Streisand called out to her hometown’s swanky new Barclay’s Center early on in her three-plus hour concert. The last time she did a solo show in Brooklyn, she told the cheering crowd, was when she was 8 and singing on a stoop on Pulaski Street. Remember that, she asked her brother who was in the audience? (In case you’re wondering, he scored good seats, not great.) She looked singularly Streisandly, in a shiny black number that had enough sheer to show off those famous legs. “You like the dress?” she asked the crowd. “Good! Donna Karan!” She complimented a member of the audience who must have been wearing a souvenir shirt. “Did you buy it in the shop?” she asked. “It’s cheaper online.” In other words, not much new material to be had tonight.
But who wanted it? Certainly not concertgoers Katie Couric (who spent the intermission on her cell phone trying to find her friend’s seat), Michael Strahan, or Jill Zarin (clad in a very Stevie Nicks-meets-Pucci ensemble). Despite waking up with a cold (“I’m drinking chicken soup” she told the crowd of what she was sipping in her mug that sat next to — of course — a vase of roses), Streisand impressively powered through “Enough is Enough,” “Bewitched Bothered and Bewildered,” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” Sometimes her voice sounded strained, but more often the rasp worked for her. Her tribute to composer Marvin Hamlisch, who recently passed away, managed to be extremely touching, even as she read scripted lines off a teleprompter. She honored him with a mashup of “The Way We Were” and the completely awesome and underappreciated theme to Ice Castles. Who knew Marvin Hamlisch wrote that? Also, look out for the roses, Lexie!
When Barbra wasn’t singing or sipping chicken soup, there were other people to keep our ears busy. A lot of other people. First, Il Volo came out to remind us that Il Divo doesn’t have the monopoly on young Italian tenors. Then hottie trumpet player Chris Botti came out and jammed with the drummer. Finally, Streisand’s son Jason Gould showed up for some awkward banter (“She likes to touch my hair,” he told the audience) and a solo song. Yes, Jason Gould got to sing a solo song to thousands of people, though I’m not entirely sure he’d make it through Hollywood week on American Idol. “I am so proud of him,” beamed his mama. Fans got to ask questions and we now know that Barbra likes smooth and all natural peanut butter, instead of chunky and chemical-filled. Other than that, she repeated her already-used “I hope no one tells [Mitt Romney] how to get to Sesame Street or Pennsylvania Avenue” line. She also told the crowd she doesn’t sing Yiddish songs. Come on, there’s only so much of Brooklyn she can embrace.