United Center, Chicago
Tuesday, August 9, 2016
With 52 gold albums, 31 platinum plaques, 13 multi-platinum projects and status as the only artist ever to achieve #1 albums in six different decades, Barbra Streisand could’ve camped out at the United Center for a month and still not had enough time for all her material. Nonetheless, the singer/songwriter/actor/producer/director/author with ten Grammys, two Oscars, five Emmys, ten Golden Globes and a Tony Award promised the capacity crowd at least one smash from each or her ten chart-toppers, plus a preview of the forthcoming Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway (out August 26).
The living legend, now 74, started straight at the top during Chicago’s installment of the Barbra: The Music, The Mem’ries, The Magic Tour with a positively flawless and practically unreal rendition of “The Way We Were” to an immediate standing ovation. “I bet you’re surprised I would start with that,” she joked, before remarking it was coincidentally 50 years to the exact date she performed at Soldier Field. From there, Streisand caught everyone up to speed on those subsequent eras, putting a women’s equality slant to the beautiful ballad “Everything,” sauntering gently through Barry Gibb’s baby “Woman In Love” and swaying to the disco thumps of “No More Tears (Enough Is Enough)” alongside three soulful background singers (who ably paid tribute to the late Donna Summer).
Along the way, there was also the grandeur of “Evergreen,” a dramatic rendering of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and the resplendent “Papa, Can You Hear Me?,” all of which found Streisand effortlessly and passionately displaying exactly why she’s considered by many to be the greatest female singer of all time. After an intermission that featured a few sketches from high energy but unfathomably annoying mind reader Lior Suchard, the headliner returned to the luxurious but uncluttered set to meet her massive band for a Broadway-themed Encore and beyond segment.
Thankfully, celebrity duet partners Seth MacFarlane, Antonio Banderas, Jamie Foxx, Anne Hathaway, Alec Baldwin, Hugh Jackman and Melissa McCarthy were nowhere to be found (other than being briefly displayed on the overhead screen) so Streisand could exclusively nail staples such as “Pure Imagination” (which served as a platform for environmental awareness) and “Children Will Listen” (prefaced with an anti-violence message). Of course, the outspoken activist was also never shy when it came to her political beliefs, including countless endorsements of Hillary Clinton and just as many disses to Donald Trump.
At one point, a difficult concertgoer shouted “shut up and sing” to a mixed round of boos and yelps, but Babs took it all in stride and quickly switched gears back to the music. She was mostly met with praises and platitudes, from the standard “I love you’s” and “you’re gorgeous,” to a zealous cry of “you’re like buttah” (one of Streisand’s ultimate career catchphrases that got her all verklempt).
“Buttah” indeed, especially on a final stretch that included the showstopper “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” the unifying powerhouse “People” and the optimistic anthem “Happy Days Are Here Again.” For Streisand lifers and younger folks alike, that latter sentiment likely summed up their top dollar experience, which for more than two hours, matched if not surpassed an incomparable reputation that continues to lead the most elite class of all around entertainers.
-Review by Andy Argyrakis, Photos by Tasos Katopodis/WireImage for BSB Touring
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