Still sounding gorgeous
by David-Elijah Nahmod
It was a rare moment at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, the night before Election Day, 2012. Living legend Barbra Streisand, looking far younger than her 70 years, packed the stadium. Her fans screamed and cheered as she stepped out on stage. Clad in a stunning, floor-length black gown, she opened with "You'll Never Know," the first song she ever performed, as a teen in 1955. It was a joyous night, filled with memories of a life lived in the spotlight. The diva's tour might also be the launching pad for Jason Gould, her handsome, openly gay son, to begin a singing career of his own.
Streisand's legendary stage fright was nowhere to be seen as she sang, kibitzed with her audience, and introduced an impressive list of guest performers. Early on, she was joined by Il Volo, a trio of handsome teenage opera singers from Italy. The boys joined Babs for a stunning rendition of the Charlie Chaplin-penned classic "Smile," then gave the star a break while they brought down the house by belting out a rousing "O Sole Mio."
When Streisand returned to the stage, she paid a moving tribute to her recently deceased friend Marvin Hamlisch, who for years was her concert musical arranger. Streisand and Hamlisch had a close bond ever since they met on the rehearsal stage for Funny Girl in 1963. It was easy to see that Barbra was singing from her heart when she performed the Hamlisch-composed "The Way We Were." She paid tribute to her beloved friends, composers Alan and Marilyn Bergman, saying she and they were born in the same Brooklyn hospital. She toasted her lifelong friends with lovely versions of their songs "Nice and Easy" and "That Face." She inspired cheers from women in the audience with her rousing, off-the-cuff rendition of Laura Nyro's lesbian anthem "Stoney End," which she did at the request of an audience member.
Act II was quite a show-stopper. First, filmed 1970s interviews with Barbra's former Brooklyn NY neighbors were shown. This was followed by the final dialogue scene from her Oscar-winning film debut, Funny Girl (1968). Then the orchestra began playing the familiar strains. The star returned to the stage dressed in a floor-length red dress to offer a breathtaking performance of the great torch song "My Man," Funny Girl 's unforgettable finale. The crowd roared.
Then came her other co-stars. Jazz great Chris Botti took to the stage with Streisand. With his horn, he accompanied his idol on "What'll I Do," "My Funny Valentine," and the Oscar-winning Streisand composition "Evergreen." Barbra then took a break while Botti was joined onstage by violinist Caroline Campbell.
Soon after, Streisand shared the stage with her handsome son Jason Gould. Streisand and son are generally very private people, but they gave fans a rare peek into their private lives. The audience was treated to a short film Gould had made in honor of his Mom's birthday. The proud mom then joined her son for a lovely duet of "How Deep is the Ocean."
Perhaps the highlight of the evening came when the star recalled her legendary 1963 duet with the great Judy Garland. History was made when the pair held hands and sang "Happy Days Are Here Again"/ "Get Happy" on Garland's TV show. Many have viewed this as a passing of the torch, as Streisand is now the standard-bearer for American popular music. Magic was made again when Streisand recreated the duet with her sister Roslyn Kind. The concert's entire lineup returned to the stage for a rousing finale, which included a surprise appearance by the San Jose Symphonic Choir.
It was a magical night. More than 50 years after she first stepped onstage at the Bon Soir club in New York's Greenwich Village, Streisand remains not only the consummate performer, but perhaps our generation's greatest gift to music. Her awesome voice has retained its power to move people to tears. She is a true legend.