When Barbra Streisand stepped onto the Barclays Center stage and almost immediately began belting out “The Way We Were,” it was clear we were in for a daring show.
Starting with a beloved showstopper is like throwing down the music gauntlet, promising that what is in store will surpass previous tours. And somehow Streisand delivered.
“This is what the evening is all about,” as she launched into the classic, before adding, “Think of your memories too.”
The limited nine-city “Barbra: The Music . . . The Mem’ries . . . The Magic!” tour, which also includes another Barclays Center show Saturday, is in some ways a preview of her upcoming album “Encore: Movie Partners Sing Broadway” out on Aug. 26, which includes duets with Hugh Jackman, Alec Baldwin, Melissa McCarthy and others. But it’s also a way for her to once again put her imprint on today’s culture.
To accompany a strident version of “Being At War With Each Other,” Streisand used a video filled with poignant moments in world history, including a fight for civil rights that ran from Selma to LGBT equality to the current protests against police shootings of unarmed minorities.
When Streisand played Barclays Center in 2012, her first public performance in her native borough, the homecoming theme dominated the show.
This time, it was more of a well composed walk down memory lane, as the Erasmus High School graduate welcomed friends like Patrick Wilson and a stunning Jamie Foxx onto her elegantly minimalist stage adorned with floral centerpieces and leather banquettes. The floor seats were packed with A-list stars as well, including Sarah Jessica Parker with Bravo’s Andy Cohen, CBS’ Gayle King, and music royalty like Clive Davis.
She is the only artist to land No. 1 albums in each of the past six decades and she celebrated that feat by performing a song from each of the chart-toppers, showing how well she has navigated the worlds of pop, Broadway and even disco.
At 74, Streisand doesn’t trade in many shock-and-awe vocal moments any more. Instead, she goes for warmer, more subtle examples of vocal mastery.
Her dramatic version of “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” showed a bit more grit than it has in the past, balanced with the lush arrangement from her 12-piece band.
One thing that hasn’t changed of course are Streisand’s political leanings. Earlier Thursday, Hillary Clinton’s campaign announced a fundraiser featuring Streisand at Cipriani Wall Street on Sept. 9, where tickets start at $1,200 and run up to $250,000. And Streisand tacked on a shout-out for the presidential candidate at the end of a lovely version of “Everything.” “I want One more thing: I want Hillary to become president,” she said. “Is that too much to ask?”
Nearly every song in her set included a story or an explanation, perhaps inspired by her work on her upcoming autobiography.
Streisand seems more comfortable performing in concert again, seemingly putting the once-regular promises of farewell tours behind her. It allows her to make promises of even bolder moves, as she did Thursday night.
The Way We Were / Everything / Being at War With Each Other / Everything Must Change / Woman in Love > Stoney End > No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) / Evergreen / You Don’t Bring Me Flowers / Being Alive / Children Will Listen / Papa, Can You Hear Me? // INTERMISSION // Pure Imagination / Who Can I Turn To (When Nobody Needs Me) / Losing My Mind / Loving You (with Patrick Wilson) / Isn’t This Better / How Lucky Can You Get / Don’t Rain on My Parade / People / Climb Every Mountain (with Jamie Foxx) / Happy Days Are Here Again