Barbra Streisand Review: What Her Philly Show Was Like from the $500 Seats

My view of Babs from the 10th row at the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia.

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.

Guns N’ Roses Sucked or Was Awesome, Depending On Who You Ask

Axl Rose and Slash performing "It's So Easy" at the Guns N' Roses concert at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on July 14, 2016. (Photo via YouTube)

Axl Rose and Slash performing “It’s So Easy” at the Guns N’ Roses concert at Lincoln Financial Field in Philadelphia on July 14, 2016. (Photo via YouTube)

I told my editor that I would go down to Lincoln Financial Field and write a Guns N’ Roses review. So last night, I sweated my face off with the tens of thousands of other fans, voyeurs, and children of the 80s (and their children) as Axl Rose, Slash, Duff and some hired guns brought the Guns N’ Roses Not in this Lifetime Tour to Philadelphia. Read more »

CONCERT REVIEW: Old 97’s and Heartless Bastards at Union Transfer

Old 97's Photographed by Chris Sikich

Old 97’s
Photographed by Chris Sikich

A Saturday night with the Old 97’s is one well spent. The dynamic grouping of lead singer and guitar slinger Rhett Miller, bountiful bass and vibrant vocals of Murry Hammond, guitar guru Ken Bethea and drumming professor Philip Peeples were on fire. And as part of double headlining show with the rocking Heartless Bastards it was a Saturday one would not soon forget. Read more »

CONCERT REVIEW: M. Ward at Union Transfer

Photography by Chris Sikich

Photography by Chris Sikich

M. Ward brought his special brand of folk and mid-20th-century rock to Union Transfer on May 2nd. Playing behind his 2016 LP More Rain, a large Philly contingent drank in his guitar and unique vocals. Read more »

CONCERT REVIEW: Santigold at TLA

main_santigold

May got off to an auspicious live music start on Sunday the 1st with a hometown sold-out show by Santigold at TLA. Supporting her 2016 knockout 99¢, Santi White, aka Santigold, put on a stunning show. Read more »

CONCERT REVIEW: Pearl Jam at the Wells Fargo Center

Photography by Chris Sikich

Photography by Chris Sikich

1992 was a formidable year for me and the music world. I certainly remember being floored the first time I heard Pearl Jam’s “Jeremy.” As a young band making their way across the country, Pearl Jam played small venues at that time, and one that certainly left an impression on them was Philadelphia’s now-closed J.C. Dobbs.

Fast-forward two-plus decades and I still had yet to see Pearl Jam in concert (despite seeing Eddie Vedder in guest duties with R.E.M. and Bruce Springsteen) until Thursday, April 28th. In the first of two nights at Wells Fargo Center, they delivered a sucker punch to the soul with high-octane showmanship from song one to the finale 30-plus songs later. Read more »

Review: Kristin Chenoweth Sings With the Philadelphia Orchestra

Chenoweth

Toward the end of Kristin Chenoweth‘s set on Saturday evening with The Philadelphia Orchestra, she turned to the audience and said, “There’s only about 20 minutes left, and then you can go and pee. Oh, and if there are any straight men in the audience, my name is Kristin Chenoweth.”

That’s the typical kind of camp one would expect from the Broadway star who has both a Tony and an Emmy to her name. Let’s be clear: Ms. Chenoweth and The Philadelphia Orchestra are odd bedfellows at best, but how can you not adore the pint-sized soprano sipping soda from a giant cup between her big musical numbers? And how could you not love her commentary on Wawa (“You can buy a candle there. You can buy a Slurpee there. Heck, you can buy an entire five-course dinner there!”)? It worked as an evening of endearing entertainment. Read more »

PHOTOS: Dar Williams at New Hope Winery

On Sunday, folk rocker Dar Williams graced the stage of the New Hope Winery for two shows: one in the afternoon and one at night. She has played the intimate venue regularly over recent years. It suits her introspective and unique folk talents. Featuring drummer G. Wiz and keyboardist Bryn Roberts, Williams opened up her vast songbook for the performances. Songs from her 2015 work Emerald (which was recorded and mixed at The Hooters co-founder Rob Hyman’s Elm Street Studios) sounded wonderful next to her later works, which included the rock-infused “FM Radio,” which she co-wrote with Jill Sobule, and the jazzier “New York is a Harbor.” Conversant and obviously enjoying herself, Williams was a pure delight. She ended the evening with a performance of her Christmas tune “The Christians and the Pagans,” making a fitting end to a rousing night of music.



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