wed 21/08/2019

Barbra Streisand, O2 Arena | reviews, news & interviews

Barbra Streisand, O2 Arena

Barbra Streisand, O2 Arena

The diva's voice still soars, but is she really engaged?

Streisand: too nice'n'easy?

It opened with a standing ovation. And in a place the size of the 02 – the venue put on this earth to make Luton airport feel better – that’s impressive. It was that kind of evening: not so much Streisand in concert as an opportunity for worshippers at Barbra’s shrine to do a whole lot of basking in her genuinely unparalleled glory. Fifty years at the pinnacle of popular music is not to be sneezed at. That she can sing with a 60-piece orchestra and still deliver shiver-inducing money notes at the age of 71 is truly something. It is not, however, everything.

Her vocal power and idiosyncrasy, everywhere apparent throughout her explosive 1963 debut LP The Barbra Streisand Album, made when she was just 20, catapulted her to stardom, a state of being that (for good and ill) has never left her. What made her poleaxing, untrained sound so unique wasn’t just her astoundingly mature, expressive instrument, it was the ardour and sheer abandonment of her singing. She sang as if nothing else mattered. And in album after album (she has released around 50), the voice only got better. But around the end of the Seventies, she began to play safe. 

We were treated to a loving home video made by her son Jason of him and his mother over the years

With rare exceptions – often when duetting, where competition spurred her on – everything sounded more and more controlled, as if she were marshalling her resources. That felt especially odd when she had long forsworn live performance because of stage fright. So when in 1994 she returned to live concerts after a break of, er, 27 years, it was no surprise that in concerts at Wembley and Madison Square Gardens she sounded similarly contained. The shock now is how often she now thrillingly drops that guard. 

At the edges, the voice now sounds a little frayed. Ironically, however, that releases her from the self-imposed tyranny of being able to use her enviably liquid tone to achieve aural perfection. The croak that has crept in, and the greater effort she has to make, re-releases her wow factor and the more expressive gutsy quality. When she lets rip, that voice slices triumphantly through the years, even overriding a sound design so resonantly bombastic that it drowned the 100-strong finale chorus singing “Let Our Garden Grow” from Bernstein’s Candide

You can, however, hear a “but” coming, can’t you? Let me fess up: as a young teen I didn’t just love her, I wanted to be her – though not a lot later I got a grip and realised I was merely gay. So it grieves me to report that much of the evening left me if not quite cold, then more than a little distant - and I sat close in one of the expensive seats (top price £471).

It wasn’t just that every lyric was on the autocue, so was every line of patter, every gag. Spontaneity was in depressingly short supply. We were being inducted into Barbraworld, a place that perspective forgot, with photo collages of young Streisand splashed onscreen around her. Then on came singing sister Rosyln Kind. And in the second half we were treated to a loving home video made by her son Jason of him and his mother over the years. Her overflowing pride in a son who, it turns out, can sing, is admirable but after duetting “How Deep Is The Ocean” with mom, did we need two solos from him? Watching cuteness from a 45-year old requires indulgence on a pretty major scale.

Which most of the audience, starved of Barbra in the flesh, was up for. Refreshingly, she largely chose to sing her favourite standards rather than regurgitating hits. A glowingly reflective “Nice’n’Easy” entirely escaped Sinatra’s shadow and Jimmy Webb’s “Didn’t We” simply soared. We revelled in a Jule Styne medley that brought a foretaste of her proposed movie-musical Gypsy and she still lifts audiences to their feet with her killer signature “Don’t Rain on My Parade.” But it was her other Styne anthem that gave the game away. 

“People” isn’t lyricist Bob Merrill’s finest hour – what does “People who need people/Are the luckiest people in the world” actually mean? – but it deserves more than mid-phrase interruptions. Anyone who can break the build of a song to kibbitz with an audience – ”Front seats? You can stretch your legs, or have a nice lunch...” - is clearly not committed to expressing the song. And if she’s not fully engaged, why should we care?

Watch Barbra Streisand onstage at the O2 Arena

When she lets rip, that voice slices triumphantly through the years

rating

Editor Rating: 
3
Average: 3 (1 vote)

Share this article

Comments

She can sing,but I didn't pay £400 to listen to her sister ,son,trumpet ,violin player or choir! Which was used to pad the show out Disgraceful !

My sister and I had been looking forward to seeing Barbra for the first time. We were very disappointed with the show. Couldn't see why it was necessary for her son to sing so many songs; one with the slideshow, two solos and one with his mother - what was that all about? Can understand her singing a song with her sister - that was nice, but why couldn't she just have sung one song with her son? Also, there were hardly any of her most well known songs. All in all, not worth the money - shame really as we were so excited about seeing her. What a let down!

Good and accurate review but I was there with my wife and we didn't care about her self-indulgences. We overlooked her having to have everything scripted. We came away having had a magical audience with a living legend. So please don't rain on our parade and hope you feel a little guilty because her fans will always 'care'.

£350 a ticket. Bitterly disappointed. No hits, self-indulgent. Felt conned.

I agree. We worked out that she only sang for 25 mins in the second half. I know people that paid over £400 to see Barbra not her family.

Of course she was fully engaged, this review ridiculous. Barbra is 71 years old, if her voice is a little frayed round the edges these days then that's fine with me, as long as I get to hear her sing at all, I'm happy. As for Roz and Jason also being a part of the show, it was touching. If you know Barbra at all then you know she is extremely private, so to involve her family was a privilege to be a part of. If you want to hear her perfect voice with no interruptions or no chit chat then perhaps you'd be more suited to sitting alone at home with her discography. When I saw her in Brooklyn no one was this critical of her. You've managed to rain on everyone's parade, congrats.

Loved YOUR take on Goddess Barbra. I saw her in October and she was magnificent. The detractors are not worthy or qualified to lick the soles of her Stuart Weitzman pumps! Long live the Queen!

Well whatever about you people I was sitting high up in the gods and loved every single minute of it! She had personality, nerves, guts, sang the songs with energy and verve, looked amazing and even brought along the family for us to meet. But best of all, I got to be in the same place as the singer whose voice was the backdrop to the tears and joys of my own experiences. No backing dancers? Barbra, I was dancing inside.

BRAVO!!!

She is still brilliant and if you are a true fan then yes, you can allow for her voice at the age of 71. However i paid a lot of money to see Barbra and as previously stated, not her sister and two songs from her son. I think there was a point were she didn't sing for 20 mins whilst sitting on stage listening to her son. Not on! when you have paid over £400 pounds. I would rather have paid £200 and had one hour of just Barbra. I was happy to see her family with her, however, it was Barbra we came to see.

Did you not read the program before you shelled over the money? Because I paid more than that and I knew this is what I was getting.

Sorry. I love Barbra Streisand and as soon as a tour date is released i book and have never been disappointed so far. However, i paid to see Barbra and guests not guests and Barbra. But i am pleased you enjoyed it.

Unless you have family connections that I for one will envy, most of us were only able to buy the programme at the O2 by which time we had been in possession of our tickets for months. Perhaps you should think before you put up such a poor defensive argument. I am the biggest of fans, I am in my 50's and couldn't wait to see her, when she sang she was wonderful, but the family and friend sideshow was out of order, my wife and I wanted to see and hear her, we had no knowledge of the dissappointment that lay ahead of us

No I did not purchase a program before I shelled over the money, and I dont suppose many people did. I also did not purchase a program whilst at the O2 as it was overpriced at £25.00...YES £25.00!!! What a rip off !!Whilst at the concert with the thousands of people there, I counted 2 people with the program- says it all really!!!!!

Streisand fans will be very defensive but last night was a very poor night for me. To showcase her family as an alternative to singing herself was an insult at those prices. I'm sure many paid to be in the presence of this great diva, not to watch a family slide show.

Disappointing lazy performance, who cares about her family album and the von trap members, people / fans / customers paid good money to see and hear Barbra Streisand.

The opportunity to hear a singing legend sing live could not be missed, and I paid over the odds to do so. Having listened to the first half I must say I was not disappointed. The quality of her voice and the ease of her interaction with the crowd was even greater than I anticipated. The obvious, of the way she protected her voice and performance at the age of 71 was unsurprising, and whilst fraying round the edges the voice was incomparable with any other I've heard. However I must agree that the second half was disappointing, the trumpet playing Mr Botti was great and I it was nice to see Barbra enjoying her family, but it was out of proportion with what we had paid to see. I believe the article is very accurate and if Barbra wanted to indulge herself rather than her audience (fans will always be fans) then the ticket prices should have reflected this. All that said, the lady looks incredible and sounds incredible and I and only wish I had seen her perform in her prime.

The concert was an utter disgrace. When she actually sang she was mostly good but rolling out her weak son, sister and trumpet-man was the biggest waste of money. To introduce them, leave and then watch videos with her back to the stage was the epitome of indulgence. People walking out 25 mins to the second half speaks volumes. 2/5 at best.

I was gutted!!! I have loved Barbara as I was bought up listening to her!!! I have never been so bitterly disappointed as above, I did not pay £400 to listen to her sister, son violinist and a mediocre trumpet player (who incidentally killed Evergreen). The way we where - however you could have heard a pin drop!! That WAS special but rest..... Self indulgent drivel ! Barbra you let a lot of people down. We paid good hard earned money to see you, YOU!

At the end of the day she is 71 .It must be so draining for a younger person .She had no support act .So for her to pad it out was probably needed so she could take her time .The Voice was wonderful . I did not care for her Son or Sister .But accepted it was part of the show .Just to have seen her was worth it in my opinion .I liked the Trumpet player who duets with her .

And how many of the "appalled" posters above, ACTUALLY went to the concert?

what time did the concert finish?

I was looking forward to going to my first Barbara Streisand concert, I had been wanting to see her for a long time. So, I was thrilled to acquire tickets to her show. Unfortunately, my excitement was short but sweet. No doubt, Barbara still has it...powerful, magical voice, but last night we only managed to hear about 40 mins of it!! Instead we had to endure a family show case, not only her Sister but her Son too !!! What a cop-out, this showed signs of desperation to me. I know she is 71, but I have seen Tony Bennett in concert and he is in his 80's and he did not bring on any obscure members of his family to pad out his performance, it was just him and the orchestra, which is how Barbara should have done it. I paid to see and hear her beautiful voice, instead I paid to see a variety show!!

Yes, couldn't agree more. Such a disappointment - not what I expected of such a legend.

I could not agree with your post more! I saw this tour when it was here at the Hollywood Bowl seven months ago, and walked away feeling like paid big bucks for a Streisand show which really only lasted about 45-minutes. If a performer is going to charge the ticket prices which she does, then she should be ready to deliver a Streisand concert, not a Streisand family reunion.

This was an incredible performance - still that amazing control and clarity and still hitting those amazing notes. It was clearly advertised that the show would include Ros and Jason and that was fine. A barnstorming performance by the greatest female popular singer of all time – it was a privilege to be in the same room. Of course nothing was unrehearsed, it never has been – she is an actress and we paid to see a superb performance. She was in better voice than in 1994 and 2007, and seemed far more relaxed. The sound at the 02 was perfect, and she was more laid back and funny than in previous years (hilarious version of Enough is Enough as a tribute to Donna Summer) Nearly two hours of song after song only marred by an indulgent turn from her son Jason (but she is a Jewish mother after all). She sang the all the faves, but also some of the old ones for the true fans (I have bought every LP she ever made, from the very beginning) including Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered from the Third Album, which I used to play over and over and over when I was a teenager and never thought I'd hear her sing live. And of course she paid tribute to Marvin with The Way We Were (do yourself a favour, see A Chorus Line at the Palladium) And towards the end, with Here's to You and Some other Time, from One Night Only, she managed to turn the O2 into a New York nightclub of the early 60s and reduced at least one member of the audience to tears. She's on again on Monday night - beg borrow or steal - worth every penny

Thanks so much for this great comment. I concur, I purchased the ticket knowing her son, sister and Chris Botti were part of act. I am going tomorrow night and I can not wait. Have not taken any notice of The Telegraph review either which also seems to have totally lost the point of seeing a legend + having an ultimate experience of tears down your eyes as the tingles of a powerful voice rattle down your spine! Priceless!

Yes, I go to the LSO (London Symphony Orchestra) at the Barbican regularly and always ask for my money back because the musicians all play from sheet music. What a hoax!

What a let down the concert was last night £800 on tickets to listen to her family singing only needed the family cat and dog on stage and the family would of been complete. I went to the concert to listen to songs which I had grown up with not to listen to songs which she liked to sing. It was a total disgrace it is time to retire and repay the ticket money back. Hope you enjoyed it Barbara because I didn't speak to anyone who did.

May I correct you, her name is Barbra! Are you sure you went to the Barbra Streisand concert and not some other?

Sorry spelt name wrong.Unfortunately yes I did go to the concert. Thanks for pointing that out and not how bad Barbara was in concert cheers

I went last night with my mum and sister. We enjoyed ourselves so much!! It was a great night, her voice is astonishing. I am 24 but love her music and it was the experience of a lifetime for us to hear a legend like Barbra. Her son sang 1 song too many but it wasn't as bad as people are saying on here. I felt like every word she sang and said was genuine, she is 71 years of age she looked fantastic and sang amazingly!! If you are going on Monday just enjoy it and bask in the knowledge you are in the presence of a legend! It felt nostalgic and that she wanted to spread a deeper message than just the lyrics she had to sing. It was the most enjoyable night... She could sing the phone book to me and I would be happy. Honestly it was brilliant. The trumpeter and orchestra are phenomenal it was a world class show on all levels. Well worth every penny!!!!

I spent so much money to hear only 35 to 40 minutes of Barbra singing hoarsely? She is not able to sing high notes anymore. I also thought she would sing Memory from Cats and A Piece of Sky. Also not sure why she brought all her family up on stage to sing. I spent 400. I feel ripped off!

I agree with a few comments on here, I would rather not have had to sit through anyone BUT Barbra. But You who says she sang hoarsley and didn't hit those top notes must have had too much to drink or had gunk in your ears! shame on you for telling these lies, she was amazing when she sang and hit all those notes. Has anyone considered that because of her age that she needed support in the form of acts to complete the show. Barbra's songs are huge and hard for any singer to perform, let alone at her age. I think we were blessed to still be able to witness such a remarkable woman who still has it!

Anybody going and expecting all the hits is naive indeed. She can't sing them all now and it would not be good to try to. I knew what I was getting when I booked the tickets on pre-sale. If you are going to shell out a lot of money, read the description and you might not be disappointed - or decide not to go. Chris Botti, the trumpet player was outstanding, with the piece from Sketches of Spain out of this world. Barbra Streisand clearly needed to take breaks and this was a fantastic way to fill the gaps. This is the only time I have seen her and I was not disappointed with the show at all. But then I understood what I was getting for my £450 tickets.

Die Hard Fans would NEVER say a bad word against there idol and rightly so, however to myself & many people £300 to £500 is an awful lot of money to shell out, especially in these hard times & for 40min of other people performing & yes it was advertised that they were on but I, like most people presumed that they were all support acts & therefore would be on before the actual Concert.Yes when her Sister sang a Duet it was fine & even when she sang a solo it was acceptable because Miss Streisand did a Costume Change. The first act was Great, even though I don't think she should attempt a New Movie version of Gypsy as she murdered that!!! The second act wasn't acceptable & yes the Trumpet player was Excellent & the Duet with the Violin Player was Amazing but as someone said earlier he made Evergreen sound God Damn Awful & we didn't need him on stage for as long as he was or his two solos from him while Babs was off Stage & not even having a costume change either!!! And then her Son sang four songs in total with two solos & that wasn't acceptable either. At the Price of Tickets we Demand Babs & only Babs!!! The part with the Large Male Choir & all her Guests was an awful part of the Show too & you couldn't even make out the Choir Voices. People were leaving in there droves in the second act & i felt bad, however understood why and it was sad to witness as I've wanted to see her for decades only to feel let down BIG TIME!!! So Glad I went and I can say I've seen the Legend but shameful that she charged those extortionate prices & with a lot of people buying a Brochure at £25 each & not counting the £25 T-Shirts, CDs, Posters etc I think the entire Circus was just a Giant Cash Cow for Babs!!! Whatever you say, the general consensus is that it was disappointing because of the Von Trap Family Concert!!!

Really wanted to see and hear STREISAND been on my wish list so paid what was and is silly money, same as I paid for the STONES. Lets demolish this age nonsense the STONES played a whole set,no breaks and no family members, they're in the same age bracket.We paid....they played...simple. The overamped trumpet player who gave very dog in Woolwich an embolism and a son proving that you don't always inherit your parents skills, ruined the second half, unlike others I saw I didn't 't walk out. When she did let rip she was sensational, but by showcasing lesser mortals the magic was diluted. Finally please no more lectures on global warming from millionaire divas, I assume she flew to LONDON. ,enough said. Sorry but I had more fun on the cable car on SUNDAY morning for £8.60. Producers need to rethink this lady started with a standing ovation they should have built on that..bring back BARBARA cut the add ons.

Funny to spend so much when I get the feeling you don't really like her that much. I think most fans would know how to spell her name by now, especially when drawing attention to it with upper case.

Add comment

Subscribe to theartsdesk.com

Thank you for continuing to read our work on theartsdesk.com. For unlimited access to every article in its entirety, including our archive of more than 10,000 pieces, we're asking for £3.95 per month or £30 per year. We feel it's a very good deal, and hope you do too.

To take an annual subscription now simply click here.

And if you're looking for that extra gift for a friend or family member, why not treat them to a theartsdesk.com gift subscription?

newsletter

Get a weekly digest of our critical highlights in your inbox each Thursday!

Simply enter your email address in the box below

View previous newsletters