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Barbra Streisand, The Legend, Performs in Israel for the First Time

Talli Koren, Shalom Life's Tel Aviv correspondant, tells us what it's like to be up close and personal with Barbra

By: Talli Koren
Published: June 21st, 2013 in Culture » Music » Reviews
Barbra Streisand at Tel Aviv's Bloomfield Stadium

I thought my seat would be closer. Closer to that radiant face, closer to that shimmering gold-laden dress, closer to that sparkling voice. I did have a VIP ticket after all – but I guess you can never be close enough to a legend like Barbra Streisand.

The anticipation of the singer’s first concert in Israel has been building all over the country in recent weeks as fans anxiously awaited that 'once in a lifetime opportunity,' as promised by the tag line on the huge ads at every bus stop in Tel Aviv.

She didn’t disappoint.

After an intro of songs and photos offering snapshots of her life, from birth leading up to Funny Girl, Streisand walked onto the stage and first addressed the audience with a “Shalom Tel Aviv, Bruchim Habaim” (hello Tel Aviv, welcome). This sent the crowd of 16,000 into a frenzy, soaring and cheering, and already up on their feet, ready to greet her. She explained why this, her first performance in Israel, is particularly special for her, noting Israel’s beauty and rich history and of course her own roots and heritage. “Where you come from influences where you are today,” she offered.

While I haven’t seen any of her other performances on this European tour, or anywhere else for that matter, I suspect Streisand was somehow a little more “Jewish” at this particular event. In a unique question and answer session during the first half of the evening she pulled out questions left in a box by the audience and tried to answer them. One note asked why she brings her family to her concerts and Streisand answered that her son and sister are talented and the audience deserves to hear them and that she loves having them with her. An audience member shouted, “it’s the Jewish way!” and Streisand agreed.

Indeed, her family played a particularly important part in the evening. The short film her son made for her 70th birthday, made up of pictures of his childhood and accompanied by his own rendition of “Nature Boy,” set the tone for the emotional mother-son duet of “How Deep is the Ocean”.

Her father, mother, and sister all made it to the stage as well – in some way or another. Before the two sisters sang “Smile”, a recording of Streisand’s mother’s beautiful soprano voice was played and Streisand said “Mom, you made it to Bloomfield Stadium in Tel Aviv”.

Talking about the honorary Doctor of Philosophy she received from the Hebrew University earlier this week, Barbara emphasized the legacy of education she received from her father, and went on to sing “Papa can you hear me?” from Yentl.

The evening offered many firsts. Her repertoire included some unique selections that were not featured at her performances earlier this month in Europe. “Woman in Love”- the song she is perhaps most well-known for here in Israel - is one example. She hasn’t performed the song in 30 years and admitted that she is grateful for the invention of the teleprompter, which provided a needed back-up to her memory. She recalled her slip-up at a Central Park concert in ‘67 when she couldn’t remember the words to a song and told the audience that incident stopped her from performing for nearly three decades thereafter. “Over-thinking,” she said.

But that Barbra seems to be long gone. The 71-year-old singer who appeared here tonight, first in gorgeous black and gold that draped gracefully to the ground and later in a lavish flaming-red gown, seemed truly comfortable in her own skin. Bouncing around on stage while singing “Enough is Enough,” the incredible duet she recorded in 1979 with Donna Summer, she seemed like she was having a great time.

Many other favourite numbers made it as well including “The Way we Were,” which she dedicated to the memory of her friend, the great Marvin Hamlisch, “People,” “My Man” and “Evergreen,” performed with the talented trumpeter Chris Botti.

A 60 member orchestra accompanied her through the entire evening.

After she sang “Somewhere” (a reminder of the lyrics: “We’ll find a new way of living / We’ll find a new way of forgiving”) she wondered aloud, “it’ll happen?” One can only assume she was referring to the hope of peace in the region.

A true performer, for the last number before the encore she offered a moving rendition of “Hatikva” (the Israeli national anthem). An emotional crowd sang along, standing proud. Thursday’s concert marked her 99th performance to date. In this week of special occasions, it seems only fitting that the Jewish singer’s 100th performance will take place this Saturday night in Tel Aviv.

Related articles: Barbra Streisand, Tel Aviv, Israel, Music, Presidential Conference
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