MSQ Review: Barbra Streisand at The Hollywood Bowl
To paraphrase the old Chiffon margarine commercial, “It’s not nice to mess with Mother Nature.” That is unless you are Barbra Streisand who willed it not to rain on the first of her two concerts at the Hollywood Bowl. While she couldn’t keep the cold away, she warmed the hearts of the nearly 18,000 fans in attendance.
Opening with the appropriate “On a Clear Day,” Ms. Streisand proved that at age 70 with her voice not what it once was, she is still a force to be reckoned with. Unlike Liza Minnelli, who earlier this year proved that spirit can’t compensate for a lack of vocal prowess, Ms. Streisand knows the limitations of her voice and works with and around them to make beautiful music.
Songwriters Alan and Marilyn Bergman played a prominent role starting with the second song. A medley of “Nice and Easy,” which could be a description of the ballad-heavy evening, and “That Face,” which appeared separately on her recent album “What Matters Most,” followed the opening song. She was in a feisty mood sticking closely to her scripted show but throwing in asides about the weather or responses to shouting of fans. The Bergmans were also represented with “The Way We Were,” which was performed in its original arrangement for the film by Marvin Hamlisch (who was her rehearsal pianist during Funny Girl on Broadway). She briefly deviated from the last verse of the song to include some comments about his passing and then sang “Through the Eyes of Love” (also known as “The Theme from ‘Ice Castles.”) I never thought she’d sing that song, but I understand its selection.
Also in the category of songs I never thought I’d hear her sing live is “No More Tears (Enough is Enough.)” This was apparently a fan request from an “Ask Barbra” booth. Or maybe it was a planted comment. I don’t know, but I thoroughly enjoyed it.
Jule Styne was given a medley to close the first act with “Rose’s Turn,” “Some People” and “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” There has been talk about Ms. Streisand playing Mama Rose in a film version of Gypsy, but there’s also been talk that she’s too old for the part. Her commitment in this medley certainly made that concept more interesting.
The second act opened with a mighty performance of “My Man.” It was breathtaking. “Evergreen” and “People” were included with the latter song being particularly moving. Her duet with son Jason Gould was a lovely moment featuring the beaming mother supporting her talented son.
The show was not without its flaws. Ms. Streisand’s reliance on teleprompters (and on Friday night a heater) meant she didn’t move across the vast Bowl stage as much as fans on either side would have liked. And her decision to include Il Volo (who Mary Melton dubbed the “Italian Jonas Brothers”) and Chris Botti (who turned his back on the audience during “When I Fall In Love” as if he were Miles Davis; he isn’t even close) makes me question her judgment. But perhaps she wanted nice and easy guests, so the main event was what it should have been all along… Barbra.