Review: Barbra Streisand - The Music... The Mem’ries... The Magic!: 'Old staples in a fascinating new context'


Barbra Streisand was a call back to an older idea of showbiz glamour, even early in her career. She recreates the pow and pizazz of those formative years, as well as the triumphs that would follow, with this live recording of a 2016 concert in Miami — part of a 16-date US tour in support of her best-of collection, Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway.

In her seventies, her voice isn’t quite the power-house of yore. However, she displays a seasoned intimacy across a set encompassing favourites such as 1974’s ‘The Way We Were’ and ‘You Don’t Bring Me Flowers’, her 1978 duet with Neil Diamond, which she here belts out solo and makes Diamond’s contribution feel extraneous.

The big duet is with r’n b singer and actor Jamie Foxx who joins her for a crooning ‘Climb Ev’ry Mountain’. It’s a real showstopper, with Foxx deploying laid-back charisma as Streisand belies her veteran status by plucking effortlessly at the high notes.

Nearly as striking as her virtuosic singing is the warmth of her connection with her audience. Streisand is an effortless raconteur and her patter here, which runs from preachy (she
inevitably bangs on about the environment and the future she wants for her children) to hilarious observational natterings will warm the cockles of her fanbase. She has a movie-star aura — and when she ratchets it up to full force, it is irresistible.

Live albums are almost invariably unimaginative cash-ins — and Streisand has put out more than her share down the decades. But Barbra… is a reminder not only of the artist’s status as one of the great songbook interpreters of the late 20th century, but of the bottomless devotion she continues to inspire. If you’re a true believer, it will be an education to revisit these old staples in a fascinating new context.


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