My view of Babs from the 10th row at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.
I grew up listening to Barbra Streisand with my parents. I watched her movies and sang her songs, always trying — and failing — to hit the high notes. She was very much a part of my childhood. So when my editor sent out a request for someone to review Saturday night’s concert in Philadelphia, I was all over it. Plus, whereas my editor wound up sitting in a $200 nosebleed seat during her last tour (you can read his review here), I was front and center in the $500 seats.
Here, some observations from the show.
Fortunately, It Was Better Than the New Album
Before I went to the show, I listened to the new album, Encore, the ostensible reason for this tour. I wish I never heard it. Encore is a mess and contains some bizarre duet choices. Alec Baldwin? Really? Streisand doesn’t need gimmicks like Alec Baldwin. She’s a classic all by herself.
The Faithful Fans
Most people I spoke with at the concert were at their first Barbra Streisand concert. It was a special occasion that included hotels and elegant dinners in the city before the show.
Jessica Guglietta, 32, accompanied her 70-year-old mother-in-law Claudia, who had not seen Streisand perform live since 1964, when she saw her on Broadway in Funny Girl. Claudia’s age group was well represented. I overheard someone quip, “We should pass out shots of Geritol.”
Then there were the group of older ladies in boas, men in bright silver jackets, and people who drove from Delaware and Pittsburgh to see her. Then there were the fans — men and women — who would not stop yelling variations on “We love you Barbra!” throughout the concert. One fan insisted that she loved Barbra more than the previous yelling fan. Streisand laughed.
Of Course She Opened With “Memory”
As Streisand walked onstage, wearing a black lace top with long flared sleeves and black bellbottoms, she launched into Memory. “Memories,” she told the capacity crowd. “That is what tonight is all about.” When her voice slipped on a note in the song, she casually pointed it out.
Streisand remarked how great it was go be back in Philly and mentioned her 1966 TV special, which she filmed at the Art Museum.
Streisand also introduced her 98-year-old aunt from Philly, who was seated in the front row.
The Obligatory Donald Trump Moment
Like her past concerts, Streisand discussed her political views, but she somehow managed to wait 30 minutes before getting in her first dig at Donald Trump. She was telling a story about her longtime manager Marty Erlichman, who has represented her since 1961. She noted that it’s very unusual to have the same manager for so long and cracked that Trump has had three managers in just three months.
Streisand said she was “thrilled” to be in the same arena where her friend Hillary Clinton had just accepted the presidential nomination, to which one man in the crowd shouted, “Go Trump!” People turned and stared.
She even ventured into a talk about climate change, showing photographic evidence of global warming, and then launched into “Pure Imagination.” When the song ended, she reminded her audience not to vote for someone who believes that climate change is a hoax.
What’s With the Mindreader?
At one point, Streisand took a break (naturally, she told the crowd that it was so she could take “some bites from a Philly cheesesteak”) and sent out a mindreader — yes a mindreader! — named Lior Suchard to entertain the crowd. It was like 1976 in the Poconos all over again. I’m sure my parents would have loved his shtick — the audience certainly did.
Buy the $500 Seats
If you get a chance to see Streisand on this tour, spend the extra money and get close. Seeing a living legend like her from a seat where you can actually look at her all night instead of some video monitor is worth it. As for me, having finally experienced Streisand in concert, I feel fulfilled. Now if I could just get that Alec Baldwin duet out of my head.