Barbra's Back With few false notes, Streisand launches tour with dazzle and drama

May 11, 1994|By J. D. Considine | J. D. Considine,Sun Pop Music Critic

It was a classic show-biz moment.

There was Barbra Streisand, on stage and on tour for the first time in 28 years, singing "And We Never Said Goodbye." It's not a song about her long absence from the concert hall, but it may as well have been, given the resonances the lyrics created in the crowd.

Then, as the music swelled around her, Streisand took a step forward and sang, "Now I'm Standing Center Stage/I'm Home at Last." And even if you knew it was coming, it was hard not to be swept away by the triumph of the moment.

That's showmanship.

More to the point, it was precisely the kind of show Streisand gave at the USAir Arena last night. It wasn't a concert, at least not in the contemporary sense of the term; it was more like a one-woman revue, with sets, shtick, special effects and an impressive amount of spectacle.

Given Streisand's roots in the theater, this hardly came as a surprise. Indeed, it's pretty much what her fans paid up to $350 a ticket for.

But for all the dazzle, it was a decidedly mixed performance. Sure, there were great moments -- quite a few, to be honest. Old favorites, such as "People," "Don't Rain on My Parade" and "On a Clear Day," were given lustrous readings; likewise, such movie hits as "The Way We Were" and "Evergreen" (both abetted by video) also sparkled in her hands.

Nor did she need a special connection with a song to work her magic, as her exquisite reading of "The Man That Got Away" made plain.

There were even some unexpected show-stoppers, such as a sequence from "Yentl" (!) that brought the house to its feet, and a stirring encore rendition of "Somewhere," from "West Side Story."

Yet for all she did right, there were still occasional missteps. She gave "Lover Man" a bongo-spiked treatment it hardly needed, and fitted "What Is This Thing Called Love" with a ridiculous jungle-drum arrangement.

And though her rendition of "Happy Days Are Here Again" was meant to be uplifting, it came across more as a commercial for Bill Clinton's Democratic Party.

Moreover, her comic monologue (which she read from a prompter above the audience) was as tired as borscht-belt chicken soup, and definitely did not make the most of her talents. Far better were the moments earlier in the show in which she recounted her youth -- including her crush on Marlon Brando after seeing him in "Guys and Dolls" -- and spoke more from the heart than from her script.

But through it all, she never lost the crowd -- not even the Republicans. And if that doesn't demonstrate star power, it's hard to imagine what would.

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