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July 24, 2014

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Photos: The way she is — Barbra Streisand is still brilliant at 70

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Tom Donoghue/DonoghuePhotography.com

Barbra Streisand’s “Back to Brooklyn” tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.

Barbra Streisand at MGM Grand Garden Arena

Barbra Streisand's Launch slideshow »
Click to enlarge photo

Barbra Streisand's "Back to Brooklyn" tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

Barbra Streisand's "Back to Brooklyn" tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.

Before there was Lady Gaga, Beyonce, Britney Spears and Madonna, there was Cher, Bette Midler and the incomparable Barbra Streisand, and the Emmy-, Grammy-, Oscar- and Tony-winning superstar was the epitome of talent and elegance in her Back to Brooklyn tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday night.

The evening’s big and looming question was would Streisand’s voice, at age 70, be strong enough to sing her classics and standards such as “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” “People,” “The Way We Were” and “Evergreen.” The answer, in a nearly 3-hour concert, is a resounding yes. She (jokingly) told her son Jason Gould that her voice was “hoarse” after he complimented her, but the truth is that her voice never faltered.

That voice -- like buttah, a big stick of buttah -- was strong, fragile, emotive and perfection throughout the evening solo, backed by a lush orchestra and in collaboration with Italian, teen popera sensations Il Volo (the boys are 17, 18 and 19), trumpet titan Chris Botti and “my pride and joy,” her son Gould.

In the evening’s most emotional moment, Streisand paid tribute to longtime friend and collaborator Marvin Hamlisch, who passed away on Aug. 6 at age 68. She shared stories and photos of Hamlisch and her. He was her rehearsal pianist in 1963 and had to get coffee for the crew. Since she didn’t drink coffee, he was told to buy her a doughnut; he always bought her two.

“He had the wisdom of an adult and the enthusiasm of a child. … This one’s for you, Marvin.” She performed “What I Did For Love,” “The Way We Were” and “Through the Eyes of Love.” “He was a singular sensation,” she summed up of Hamlisch.

In the night’s most candid/humorous/relaxed/seemingly unscripted moment, Streisand answered questions written on cards by concertgoers while filing into MGM Grand. Highlights: A fan who traveled from Poland asked if she would tour Europe again. She replied that she loves Europe and never say never.

Does she watch reality TV shows? “I prefer fantasy to reality, like Fox News,” eliciting a roar of applause, followed by short-lived boos. “Oh, of course there are Republicans here; they can afford my tickets. You’re all rich; why aren’t you closer?” Will she campaign while in Nevada? “You haven’t seen my PSA or received a robocall from me?” How long will you keep singing? “You mean tonight? There’s still a second act! … I’ll keep singing until my voice goes.”

Which movie of yours would you like to see a sequel? “ ‘The Way We Were.’ We tried for many years, but it never happened. … That would’ve been a wonderful sequel.” Will you sing “Evergreen”? Tonight is our 35th anniversary, and it was our wedding song. Streisand sang it for the couple in the second act.

Toward the end of the evening, she told the audience, jokingly, that she wasn’t going to talk politics (after having talked politics, natch) -- “I’m not going to tell you how to vote” -- but then launched into a monologue about how one party believes in climate change and in curbs and laws to help the environment, while the other believes that it is a hoax and that FEMA and PBS should be closed; and that one party believes that a woman’s body shouldn’t be controlled by the government. Hmmm … who is Streisand voting for on Tuesday?

In case one thinks Streisand -- whose wardrobe changes for the evening were a black sequined dress with a embroidered thigh-high slit, jacket and vest; a black sequined pantsuit and a modified persimmon Grecian gown -- isn’t familiar with DJ Duck Sauce’s infectious club hit “Barbra Streisand,” Il Volo sang a few lines of it during their introduction, and the song was played during a video at intermission. “Barbra Streisand.”

Nothing against concerts with elaborate laser lighting, choreography and LED screens (Madonna, Spears and Beyonce are amazing performers onstage, and Swedish House Mafia, Calvin Harris and Tiesto are current EDM favorites), but Streisand proved that with a beautiful voice, an incredible catalog of music and an orchestra, you’ll have the audience and longtime fans under your spell to a T -- and that T is for talent.

Click to enlarge photo

Barbra Streisand's "Back to Brooklyn" tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.

Click to enlarge photo

Barbra Streisand's "Back to Brooklyn" tour stop at MGM Grand Garden Arena on Friday, Nov. 2, 2012.

STAR SURVEILLANCE

At Streisand’s concert Saturday night: Oscar winner Morgan Freeman, Caesars Palace headliner-to-be Shania Twain and husband Frederic Thiebaud, boxing legend and Las Vegas resident Mike Tyson and wife Kiki, Flamingo headliner Donny Osmond, casino resort mogul Steve Wynn and wife Andrea Hissom Wynn, Rio magician headliner Teller, British theatrical director David King, Las Vegas magician Johnny Thompson and his wife and entrepreneur and philanthropist Larry Ruvo and wife Camille Ruvo.

SET LIST

Friday night’s setlist: “On a Clear Day,” “Nice and Easy”/“That Face,” “Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered,” “Didn’t We?” in a nod to the late George McGovern, “Smile” with Il Volo, “Un Amore Cosa Grande” and “O Sole Mio” by Il Volo (the latter the first song they ever performed), “Enough Is Enough” in a tribute to the late Donna Summer {“It was an honor to sing with Donna summer”), “What I Did For Love,” “The Way We Were” and “Through the Eyes of Love,” “Rose’s Turn” and then an exit to “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”

After intermission: “My Man,” “What’ll I Do”/“My Funny Valentine,” “Lost Inside of You” (in which she started early, the tightly orchestrated evening’s only, and endearingly refreshing, miscue) and “Evergreen” with Botti, Botti and violinist Caroline Campbell on “Emmanuel” (“Not the porn movie!” Streisand quipped), Botti on “When I Fall in Love” with legendary drummer John Robinson, a birthday gift film by Gould with him singing, stunningly, “Nature Boy,” “How Deep Is the Ocean?” with Gould, Gould solo on “Masquerade” and “People.”

As Gould exited the stage before “People,” doting mother Streisand said, “You can buy his CD in the lobby.” “Mom, please!” Gould responded. The finale, with everyone back onstage, plus, the Desert Angels Choir, was the pro-environment and -Earth, and perhaps a little puzzling, song “Make Our Garden Grow,” and then an exit to “Somewhere.”

But wait -- an encore! -- as the third hour approached. Streisand thanked her fans for staying with her through the years and attending the concert Friday night. Her sister Roslyn Kind, standing in for the late Judy Garland, and she performed “Happy Days Are Here Again”/“Get Happy,” and she capped her glorious night with “Here’s to Life.” Hello, gorgeous, here’s to life indeed.

Thanks to contributing photographer Tom Donoghue for his photo gallery of Streisand’s Back to Brooklyn” tour, only the fifth in her illustrious career (1967, 1994, 2000, 2006 and 2012).

Don Chareunsy is editor of VegasDeLuxe.com and senior editor, arts and entertainment, of LasVegasSun.com.

Robin Leach has been a journalist for more than 50 years and has spent the past decade giving readers the inside scoop on Las Vegas, the world’s premier platinum playground.

Follow VDLX Editor Don Chareunsy on Twitter at Twitter.com/VDLXEditorDon.

Follow Robin Leach on Twitter at Twitter.com/Robin_Leach.

Follow Vegas DeLuxe on Twitter at Twitter.com/vegasdeluxe.

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  1. Does her son just go by the name "Gould" instead of his full name of Jason Gould?

  2. The first mention of her son Jason Gould is in the second paragraph.