Barbra Streisand, Still Pitch-Perfect
by Liz Smith
"IT'S HARD to have stage fright when, like, there's no stage!"
That was Barbra Streisand last Saturday night at NYC's tiny club,
Streisand returned, for real, to the Vanguard for a one-night-only stint to promote her latest album, "Love is the Answer," produced by
The event was also an answer to about 100 fans' prayers. These were contest winners from around the world who were happy to be squeezed into the club, just to hear La Divina sing. Well, not only did they get Barbra, they were squeezed against such as Hillary,
So, how was Barbra in this intimate setting, backed by a simple jazz quartet, holding an old-fashioned microphone with a wire? (Streisand herself joked about the mike, but it was surely her choice to use it. Nobody springs any surprises on Barbra.) She was ... sublime.
Streisand's voice has not suffered much over the years, despite the fact that she doesn't exercise those golden vocal chords. She has admitted to some last-minute warm-ups right before recording or beginning a tour, but otherwise, she just opens her mouth and out come those famous tones, ravishing, if inevitably matured and deeper. But at the Vanguard something truly incredible happened. Years slipped away from her voice. Maybe it was the soulful, jazzy, tender material, most of which was from the album. Maybe it was the size of the room, so much different than hearing her in huge concert halls and stadiums, amplified to the max.
Whatever it was, Barbra sounded like the girl on her earliest albums, not only pitch perfect, but totally invested in her material, fresh. There was a difference, however -- her having lived! Experience has ripened her art, enhances every note. She has always been in the great tradition of singer-actors, artists who give a performance in song. Well, on Saturday night, Barbra Streisand gave her best dramatic performance since "Nuts." Her renditions of "Spring Can Really Hang You Up the Most" and "If You Go Away" were astonishing. If one could hand out an Oscar for singing, Streisand would surely be holding her third golden guy.
She did perform a few numbers that are not on the album -- "Evergreen" (dedicated to
LATER, Barbra, accompanied by her super-handsome hubby
She looked fabulous. Seeing her I was reminded of an article I read recently about
And, whether it can be attributed to love (which as her album insists, is the answer), good genes, staying out of the sun, or a daily multivitamin, Streisand appeared downright dewy and girlish that night -- a pore-less, flawless complexion.
IN A coarse, uncivil, loud, over-hyped, under-talented world of "stars" and "celebrities" Barbra Streisand remains reassuringly constant. She is a genius, an original, and still the greatest star. By far.
OH, AN insider at the Vanguard told me that all the celebs on hand to worship Barbra were very nice. But "the most gracious were the Clintons. And they left a whopping tip!"
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