Review: My Mom Says That Barbra Streisand Needs to Stop Touring

And not just because of Streisand’s Mitt Romney comments at last night’s three-hour tour opener.

Last night, Barbra Streisand took to the stage at Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia to kick off her short Back to Brooklyn tour, which moves into that New York borough’s glistening new Barclays Center later this week. And what a jam-packed three-hour show it was, bolstered by a 60-piece orchestra, trumpet mogul Chris Botti, and Italian tenor trio Il Volo. Here, some observations from the show.

Streisand treated the show like a dress rehearsal for New York. When Streisand announced the tour, a lot of people wondered why the heck she would open it here. One longtime local concert official explained to me that it was basically just a dress rehearsal for the big New York shows, which will, undoubtedly, become a DVD, PBS special, etc. And based on Streisand’s performance last night, it really was just a dress rehearsal, albeit one where people were content to pay $200 to sit really far away from the stage (and $500—face value!—up front).

The teleprompter-enabled singer flubbed at least three vocal entrances, joking at one point, “Just point to me when you want me to sing.” Her voice was reserved. She hardly gave it her all, but, hey, she’s gotta save herself for the big shows in New York. And to say that “her upper register is suffering,” as one fan seated close to me said, is putting it mildly. Meanwhile, her onstage conversations with Botti, the guys from Il Volo and her son (we’ll get to that) were, at times, painfully awkward. “Just get on with it,” is what I imagine more than a few people were thinking.

Streisand kept the Republican bashing to a minimum. Streisand’s politics are well known as is her penchant for making her audiences sit through diatribes about how much Republicans have ruined the world. Last night, her only foray into politics was when she went to a box of questions submitted by concertgoers. Philadelphia’s Jim Biggins wanted to know her opinions on Mitt Romney.

“Oh, Jesus,” she began. “I wasn’t going to get political. But I love Big Bird. I hope nobody tells Romney how to get to Sesame Street—or Pennsylvania Avenue.” Most applauded, although the guy to my right crossed his arms and shook his head as I am sure many others in the 20,000-seat facility did.

Streisand doesn’t sing more than she does sing. People will go on and on about “Barbra Streisand’s three-hour show” the same way that people go on and on about Bruce Springsteen’s long-winded three-hour (and up) romps. But Springsteen spends almost all of that time singing, strumming his guitar, and hopping around on stage.

Streisand, by comparison, sings surprisingly little, taking at least two too many breaks throughout the show, when she turns the spotlight over to other talents, like Botti and Il Volo and heads backstage to put on a new gown. And there’s a long intermission. She’s too chatty. And there’s simply too much filler for the ticket prices. I mean, a drum solo? Really?

Streisand gets $200 for the above seat. If you were wondering what the view (or at least the camera view) from a $200 Barbra Streisand seat looks like, let the above photo serve as documentation. I wasn’t supposed to be sitting in section 204a, where I snapped this photo. No, my free $500 review ticket (provided by Streisand’s publicist) was second row center. As in two rows from Streisand’s glory.

But my 62-year-old mom, who had the 204a seat, tripped and fell on her way into the Wells Fargo Center, breaking her glasses, spraining her wrist (at least we hope it’s just a sprain), cutting her face and busting her knee. Given that she could have never even made it to 204a and that she never would have been able to see anything if she had, I switched seats with her, which was, I’ve since been told, a major no-no in the world of big concert review protocol. Consider me admonished! Apparently being a good son doesn’t matter much to the music industry.

Update 10/10/2012 4:45 p.m.: X-rays show that mom broke her hand during the fall at the concert. I’m told that Streisand’s people are “furious” that I gave my injured mom my seat.

Streisand was awesome in Funny Girl. A woman sitting near me, Arlene K., told me that she had seen “all four of Streisand’s ‘final’ concerts” and that she first saw her in Funny Girl … on Broadway. “I’m older than your mother,” she said. Arlene was beaming pretty much the whole time, taking copious notes for her girlfriends.

I could see how, if you had fallen in love with Streisand when she was on stage in Funny Girl way back when, that the woman could do no wrong. But Arlene’s husband was a reluctant date. “I don’t really like her personality,” he said, referring, I am assuming, to Streisand and not his wife. “She always seems so self-centered. It’s always all about her.” And he said that before the legendary narcissist asked the audience, “Can you see me on the big screens?” Talk amount compliment fishing.

Streisand really loves her son. I mean, really, loves her son. After a lengthy video montage of Streisand and her son, Jason Gould, whom you may recognize from Say Anything and Prince of Tides, which mom directed, Gould stepped out and sang “How Deep Is the Ocean?” with her. Some of the harmonies proved challenging. Then he did “The Masquerade Is Over” by himself. Ugh. Show business nepotism rarely yields desirable results. Just ask Van Halen fans.

Streisand will have none of your photo-taking. The instructions were pretty clear. No photos. And no videos. If you want a picture or video, buy a CD or DVD. Most fans did abide by Streisand’s wishes, as evidenced by the fact that there’s currently only one video from last night on YouTube, a distant clip (above) of Streisand doing a little Broadway medley. Just be glad the videographer didn’t turn on the camera for the disco number. Yes, I said disco number.

Streisand needs to stop touring. That was the determination of my second-row-stationed injured mother. Well, then she backtracked and said that Streisand needs to stop playing these giant rooms, like the Wells Fargo Center or similarly proportioned Barclays Center. She’s right. The rooms are just way too big, the opposite of intimate. Fine for Madonna or Peter Gabriel or Van Halen. But do you really want to spend that kind of money to watch a stage queen like Streisand on a monitor? Yes, says Arlene, who says she’d do it again in a second.

  • morosco1

    1) You should have given your mother the second row seat from the start. Shame on you for even considering relegating your mother to a hard to get to position in the arena. (“Concert review protocol”, oh please!)

    2) The artist doesn’t set the ticket price, the consumer does. What I mean is if customers are willing to pay that price then what’s your problem? Concerts are a luxury.

  • ropoet55

    I think you were in a bad mood because your mom got hurt. Doesn’t sound like the same concert that at least 5 of my friends and I attended. Not sure what would please you, but if not this concert, maybe you should sit home and review American Idol!

  • 1srotondo

    Look, I love you with Martha Graham Cracker at L’Etage, but it’s clear you’re not a Barbra S fan. You just don’t get it. So why bother documenting your reaction? For those of us who are ( I joined her fan club at age 9, in 1977 and subjected my 8th grade English class to a presentation on Barbra: The Early Years) last night’s concert in Philadelphia was absolutely magical.
    I also took my mother, and what I loved was how centered, calm and truly connected to the audience Barbara was. We also sat up high, but I still felt close to her–intimate even. Such a difference from seeing her in 1993. Yes, maybe her voice was a bit stronger then, but who cares? She is truly a gifted musician, and frankly it was an honor to see her perform her first show and the first time she has ever sung publicly with her son, Jason. His voice was lovely, soft and sweet. For those of us who feel an inexplicable tie to her and her music–for me a soundtrack to my life in an odd way–being present for moments that are important to her was truly moving.
    Musically, her rare performance of one of her most under-appreciated songs (that she co-wrote), “Lost Inside of You” was a musical experience that ranks right above seeing Prince sing Little Nikky and right below Lucinda Williams singing “Side of the Road” for my top 3 live experiences of all time.
    This confirms for me that reviewers should first be required to love the music of the person they are writing about–otherwise, we’re subjected to reading a review that frankly, isn’t relevant by any measure. A bunch of prose crafted by a person who simply just doesn’t get it. If you like that type of review, read mine of Pat Metheny–I hate jazz.

  • sadsoph1

    I couldn’t disagree more with this article…the title for one is a blatant lie and the writer only used this title so people would stop in their tracks and read the damn article. I went last night with my mother who has been battling Cancer for the last year as a celebratory gift from my husband so she could finally see her favorite singer of all time. We did have great seats, but we would have been happy anywhere since just being in the same room as her is an honor. We LOVED hearing all that she had to say because it made her show so personal like you were really getting to know her. The fact that she went off stage while other performers played was in my opinion a very respectful thing to do so they could have their moment. The drum solo was by a drummer who was the number one recording drummer in the history of the world!! I mean, he acts like it was no one up there. Everyone who was anyone was something on that stage and only Barbra would have the very best because she is the very best. She is 70 years old and did AMAZING!!! I am 33 years old and was BEYOND impressed by her singing, her stage performance, her outfit changes and the people that were on stage with her. It was like a Broadway show, Concert, Interview…all rolled up in one fabulous show. My mom used to sing like Barbra and we listened to her growing up on every car ride, every holiday and in the middle of the afternoon because my mom was always listening and singing to her songs. My mom has since lost the ability to speak and cannot sing anymore and last night Barbra made that all go away and proved to my mom that she really is a star and an idol for all ages.

  • babsdude24

    Your review is very cynical and inaccurate.

    Streisand’s dress rehearsal was last week. Last night was opening night. Opening night of a 12-show concert tour. Although there were a *few* rough spots, to be expected when a show this big is performed for the first time in front of an audience, it was by no means a lesser show. If Streisand truly took Philadelphia’s money, as you suggest, just so she could work out the kinks in the show before Brooklyn, then how do you explain her upcoming dates in Las Vegas, San Jose, Los Angeles, Chicago and Canada?

    To compare the length of Streisand’s show to Bruce Springsteen’s show is unfare and like comparing apples and oranges (or rock singers and Broadway singers, in this case).

    Streisand mentioning politics at a concert … come on, it’s Barbra Streisand. She uttered 2 political lines in a 3-hour evening that were political. And an actually funny joke. And you focused on that??

    She’s too chatty? Please google “cabaret” and investigate the history and meaning. Streisand is basically a cabaret singer; she’s had patter in all her acts since the 1960s. You are ill informed about the genre.

    Your cynical view point made you report an inaccurate version of the video screen comment Streisand made. Streisand — co-director of the show you saw — was making sure the audience members to the right of the stage had a good view of the screen. She wanted to make sure her paying fans could see her! Narcissistic or simply making sure things were right?

    For the record, Streisand sings 8 songs in the first act; she duets on 1 song with Il Volo.

    In the second act, she sings 7 songs and duets with Botti and Jason Gould on 4 songs.

    You make is sound as if she sang about 4 songs.

    Your mother and you are entitled to your opinions, however cynical and negative they may be.

  • socialcritic1

    You were not at the concert last night. And that’s a kind observation. Either you were not actually there or you are an idiot. She sang over 20 (!) songs. The production was amazing. She took two breaks — each for 9 minutes. You obviously dislike her politics — so go vote for Mitt Romney and kill off all federal dollars for the arts. The disco number was a tribute to her dead friend. Nice. BTW, did you ever perform live for 20,000 people? Didn’t think so. You’re like a sports announcer who’s never played a sport. And you clearly know nothing about music or concerts. But you did get one thing right: you got people like me to react to your inane review of an American music legend. Guess you get paid by the number of words — good or bad — generated by your reviews. (Interesting that none of the comments agree with you.)

  • jersey1969

    I saw the show last and it SUCKED. I AM a fan and agree that she should stop touring. I’ve seen her over ten times in concert and it IS time for her to hang it up. I’d rather listen to her CDs. Or, she should play a smaller, more intimate venue. Sorry babs.

  • monacr1

    Victor I love the way you write. Whether I agree or disagree your reviews are your opinion. Obviously your palm is not padded, you don’t care if they like your opinion or not. I think people are just not use to your honesty. Keep writing – I am reading and taking it all in.

  • Thomas

    Won’t give you the pleasure of listing 50 reasons why I disagree with you and why Babs is the best. I will however say, I paid $200 not to watch but to listen. And I consider hearing Streisand live an absolute luxury and money well spent.

    Also, Why didn’t you give your mom front row tickets in the first place?! I’m sensing a greedy Streisand fan here.

  • escheiv06

    Oooo Victor. So clever. You got all of us to click on your absurd blog post by stating the opposite of the truth. I sat in the front row for her dress rehearsal at the Liacouras Center Friday. It was life changing and deeply moving to watch this seasoned artist at the twighlight of her career. She brought us to tears with the beauty of her talent. Her instrument, her voice, is still magnificent. But I forgot, that it’s all about you, Victor, the blogger of all bloggers. Brilliant. And when you are not reflecting on your own brilliance you and Mom can stuff envelopes at Romney Headquarters. The rest of us will continue to enjoy one of the great artists of our time.

  • voorhees1955

    I may be the only person whose seen both Streisand and Springsteen in concert in the last month or so. You’re article is completely unfair to her and her fans. This was my first Streisand concert, and I didn’t go there to rock out. I thought it was very good. I was about 9 years old when People came out and have always appreciated her tremendous talent. Give her a break on her voice, she’s 70 years old, but still sounds close to what she was younger, and no one sings like her. It didn’t register with me just how unfair your article about Streisand is until I got to the part where you said Springsteen’s concerts are LONG-WINDED. I’ve seen Bruce 19 times, number 20 soon in Hartford, about 76 hours total. NOT ONE SECOND was long-winded, you creep. If you’ve ever seen him sober you’d know that. You should apologize to me and to Barbra’s fans, too. I liked her concert for what it was, even though I don’t really “get it” like her true fans do. You should at least admit you don’t either.

  • bkfauth117

    Well, she didn’t Madonna us. Barbara emerged just a bit late, fashionably so. That was good.

    But if you think I’m going to attend a Barbara concert where she does not sing “My Man” and NOT leave a bitter, bitter person, you are sorely mistaken.

    Perhaps if I hadn’t seen her the last time she toured, I wouldn’t be in a position to make less than favorable comparisons. Barbara, darling, did we learn nothing from “Funny Lady”? Better to stop while you’re ahead.

    In the years since attending the Philly kick-off for her last tour, I have maintained the position that even if I never get to see Jesus stepping out of a cloud, I have seen La Streisand ascend from a hole in the floor, and I am at peace.

    By contrast, so much about Monday’s outing seemed strained – not just her voice, particularly in the second act, but the proceedings in general created an aura of uncomfortableness. That the scripted banter could not make its way from the teleprompters into the mouths of those on stage was excruciating. The fact that she referred several times to the roses at center stage that were placed in a vase devoid of water left no doubt in my mind that blood would spill before the night was over.

    She had her moments, of course, how could she not? But not as many as she did last time. On Monday, I went to a concert – years before, I was granted an audience with her majesty, more than willing to pay any price for the privilege. So golden was the opportunity, I was able to forgive her dalliance with the Bush impersonator. I do share her position on many things, and felt the politicking last time a desperate measure for desperate times.

    But I cannot overlook the unseemly foisting of her son upon a sea of trusting Streisand acolytes. Barbara, you are better than that, and if whatshisname were the “instrument” he is heralded to be, well, we would have known by now, wouldn’t we? Apt comparisons to your coming turn as Mama Rose aside, seldom has any good ever come of famous mothers proffering their offspring as the Next Big Thing. Take to this to heart, as I leave you with two words: Melissa Rivers.

    As for anyone else reading what I’ve written here, do not dismiss this by thinking me a hater. You should know that I will also be attending her show in Brooklyn this weekend, so there. And while I’m hoping the rough edges will be polished off by then, if the show in Brooklyn is substantially more refined than what she brought to Philly, how can we not feel that Barbara was satisfied to give us less than her best?

  • bella1342

    Seriously, your review is a JOKE! We’re you really at the same concert that the rest of us were at? Streisand should stop touring? You need to stop writing biased reviews!

  • Paul Ancheta

    Reading mostly rave reviews from professional critics, bloggers, and others (including me) who have seen the Streisand events, I am inclined to think that you must be reviewing a show by another artist. No one else is sharing your kind of ennui over a spectacular production that seems to have outdone Miss Streisand’s previous concerts.

  • Denice Paget Horlacher

    I think this review is dead on. A long time fan of Barbra, and so excited to see her in concert. My husband surprised me with tickets … $485 each! But thought it was worth the money since I had heard that her concerts were so amazing. I am still disappointed. The set up was not impressive and although her voice is still amazing, we only heard it half of the time. I was shocked by how much time was given to her guests to perform in her place. This was not what we shelled out $950 for!
    There were so many other songs I had hoped to hear. If you need filler for your show, at least make it interesting or theatrical. I expected to be impressed with the elegance and grandeur of such a talent, not passed over to videos and long segments of other entertainers.
    The review written above nailed every single complaint my husband and I shared immediately after the show. I find it strange that others aren’t sharing the same view.

  • Lisa

    I was at the concert as well. Barbara Streisand was GREAT. Her voice was amazing and you sound like a jealous HATER…

  • Hank Peters

    You sound like a little kid that didn’t get his candy…

  • Shoeaholic

    Just seen her in London and thought she was brilliant for somebody of 71 I can see why she had her sister ,son etc with her and she said it herself I can’t stand here and sing solidly for 2 hours any longer ,so she was honest,but she hasn’t lost her wonderful voice,and as for the photos ,well whilst mobile phones have cameras it’s very hard to stop this

  • sdgirl1

    I can’t stand her anymore. Her singing is still good but not excellent. She does go flat here and there. I wish she would keep her political views to herself.

  • cherylmeril

    I found this article funny, especially with the ant on stage of your $200 seat. It’s all too hilarious. Oh wait, I just saw your mother was injured, I’m sorry! But the rest of it was funny.

  • cherylmeril

    All successful singers have to have egos, it’s a prerequisite to survival in the music business.