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Simply Streisand (1967)

Photo Credit: maxpride

Hollywood Bowl



by Dr. Catherine Chatterley, November 15, 2011

There are moments you remember all your life.

There are moments you wait for and dream of all your life. This is one of those moments.


These words from Yentl convey how, in the most complete and precise way, I felt about spending three hours at the Hollywood Bowl in Los Angeles on the evening of November 11, 2012. It was Barbra Streisand’s last show of a ten city tour called “Back to Brooklyn” and it was truly spectacular.

Seeing her perform in front of a home audience—her primary residence is in Malibu—was definitely a unique experience. She was at ease, funny, relaxed, and in total control all at once, despite the chilly November temperatures. The Hollywood Bowl is a beautiful open-air venue surrounded by soaring pine trees. The night began with hot pads for her hands, drinking her characteristic hot tea throughout the evening, two different coats and a muff by the end of the night, which covered Donna Karan’s stunning red dress.

In 1963, Streisand performed at the Hollywood Bowl between the Dave Brubeck Quartet and Sammy Davis Jr. This was her first return to the venue and only her 92nd concert (excluding performances for political fundraisers). Warren Beatty was in the audience in 1963 and again on Saturday night. The sixty-piece orchestra began the evening with the “Star Spangled Banner” and people sang it out loud and proud. It was beautiful. Trumpet master Chris Botti, violinist Caroline Campbell, and three young tenors known as Il Volo were integrated into the program rather than opening her concert. 

At 70, Streisand is reflective about her life and career and she shared a number of interesting observations: surrounding yourself with the right people is key to a successful life and career (most of her associates have been with her for 40 years); one must have a thick skin if one has a big mouth; one’s origins (Brooklyn in her case) shape the content of your character; life is short and time moves quickly so enjoy yourself, be happy, and be grateful for what you have. This conversation segued into a beautiful performance of “Here’s To Life.”


She was very open, answered questions from the audience, and conveyed her gratitude to her colleagues, staff, and fans who she said, “know more about me and my career than do I.” To this I can attest. The men who surrounded me in the garden section were doing a play-by-play and anticipated just about everything correctly including specific songs, dress changes, and number of encores (a gay version of football perhaps?). Marvin Hamlisch, who passed away this year, was honored with a video of photographs and a medley including “The Way We Were.” Yes, he was a musical genius but he never forgot her birthday and was a very kind soul. Another life long friend, he was the rehearsal pianist for Funny Girl (1964) and arranged the music for her few concerts.


She talked about her stage fright and how her fans make it easier for her to sing in public again (teleprompters also help). She forgot some lyrics during her Concert in Central Park and never sang again in concert for 27 years until she performed in Vegas in 1993-94. She opened the MGM Grand in Vegas in 2000, toured in North America in 2006 and the following year in Europe. I remember, painfully, that tickets for the millennium concert sold out in hours eight months prior to the event.


One of the surprises of the evening was the appearance of Barbra’s son Jason Gould after showing us a beautiful film he made of the two of them for her birthday. Who was the singer on the soundtrack, she asked. It appears that Jason has a stunning voice but was too intimidated to pursue singing given the identity of his mother. Until last year, she said she heard him hum a little and was shocked to hear how wonderful he sang. His voice is beautiful and sounds a little like Roland Orzabal from Tears for Fears (a video of their duet in Philadelphia is here). Like his mother, he hasn’t had years of formal training or given much regular attention to exercising his voice. Barbra was visibly pleased and proud of him saying as he left the stage, “that is joy, that is joy.”


Politics were present as they would be at a Streisand event. She was obviously thrilled with Obama’s victory as was the audience. She talked about our obligation to protect the environment, a life long commitment of her Foundation, and her new project to raise awareness and research funding for Women’s Heart Disease. In response to an audience question about whether she liked reality television, she said she prefers fantasy tv—like Fox News.  


A duet of “Happy Days are Here Again” with Barbra’s sister, Roz Kind, sung hand-in-hand, closed the show. After a moving encore of “Some Other Time,” Barbra left the stage telling us to drive safely and not to trip on the way out.


After a truly remarkable career of 45 years, Barbra remains simply wonderful . . . simply Streisand.


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