Tuesday, 8 May 2007

Steven Housman Review

Barbra Streisand: Live In Concert 2006
Columbia Records
Release Date: May 8, 2007

For those who attended one of Barbra Streisand’s twenty concerts last fall, there’s no reason to explain this release. For those of you who missed it, this is a chance to hear what all the fuss was about – and trust me, the fuss was worth it.

Live In Concert 2006 is a two-CD collection capturing the finest performances from her record-breaking tour. This audio event is absolutely breathtaking, and is honestly the warmest and most excited Barbra has ever come off in a live performance. You can sense that she really enjoyed this tour. The two CD’s contain 32 tracks, which include 22 songs culled from performances recorded in New York, Washington D.C. and Fort Lauderdale, Florida.

The album includes Streisand staples that have been heard on several of her greatest hits collections and five previous live albums. But to be fair, there would’ve been a backlash against Barbra from longtime fans had she omitted these songs.

Disc One is a treat to hear, with Streisand recreating her 60’s heyday when she was the toast of Broadway, television, films and nightclubs with songs she hasn’t sung since they were performed all those years ago. The album kicks off with a recreation of the original overture from the Broadway musical Funny Girl that was supremely orchestrated under the supervision of musical conductor Bill Ross. Enter Streisand, and she opens the disc with a spine-tingling divalicious rendition of “Starting Here, Starting Now,” a song she first sang and recorded in 1966. It’s almost as if Barbra needed to open the show and prove that she can still wow the audience forty-six years into her career. It worked. This woman can still deliver the goods. After her “opening remarks” about how she felt the need to raise money for issues that needed to be addressed in today’s climate, she launched into a spectacular rendition of “Down With Love.” After the crowd-pleasing “The Way We Were,” Barbra’s vocals glide effortlessly over the Harold Arlen classic “Come Rain Or Come Shine.” Another track on the disc includes the first song Barbra ever composed, entitled “Ma Premiere Chanson,” lifted from her 1966 masterpiece Je m’appelle Barbra. Other never-before-performed live songs include a set that weighs heavy on Funny Girl, which includes a moving and haunting version of the title song, plus a sample of “The Music That Makes Me Dance” (the song that was featured in the Broadway production) and a rousing and emotional delivery of “My Man,” as well as her signature song “People,” which is complete with the original introduction.

Disc Two wisely manages to keep the show fresh by reinventing some of her staples with her special guests, Il Divo, with new interpretations of “Somewhere,” “Music of the Night” and “Evergreen,” which was sung partially in English and partially in Italian. The highlight is when she ventures into uncharted territory with songs she has never recorded or performed before, including a gorgeous rendition of “Unusual Way” from the Broadway musical Nine, “The Time of Your Life” (a reading from writer William Saroyan), which was the perfect segue for the next track, a vocal tour de force of “A Cockeyed Optimist.” The other never-before-performed standard is a stunning interpretation of “My Shining Hour.” She closes the show with a reprise of “Don’t Rain On My Parade,” lifted from the Broadway production of Funny Girl, and a simple yet stunning interpretation of “Smile.”

Footnote: Barnes & Noble is offering this collection with the bonus track “When The Sun Comes Out,” which she only performed a half dozen times during the twenty-city tour. The bonus is a triumph, as is this entire package.

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