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An Evening with Streisand

by: Matthew d'Ancona - Last updated: 2007-07-20

Barbra Streisand

Barbra Streisand

"Can you believe it?" Every time Barbra Streisand remembered how long it was since she had first sung a song, visited a town, tried a local delicacy - "1961!" - 23,000 adoring fans agreed that, no, it was quite unbelievable.

Most of the audience at the 02 arena last night could not quite believe they were actually, at last, genuinely hearing their heroine, playing in London for the first time in 13 years.

And the sense of event was as palpable as the crushed velvet of the legend's gown: veering effortlessly from the ditzy to the diva, she held a thousand dreams in the palm of her hand, and yet was not too grand to take questions from the crowd, too.

Like Gordon, she was listening and learning, although it must be said that, in her case, the questions were not very tough. From the first chords of Starting Here, Starting Now, via The Way we Were, You Don't Send me Flowers, Down with Love (a classic that made the link with Judy Garland explicit), to Somewhere from West Side Story, and pausing only to take off her shoes, or to tell another story about the Harrods Food Hall, she was magnificently conscious of how much it means each time she plays to a crowd, each and every one of whom knows it might be the last time.

She cannot reach the high notes on Evergreen any longer, and was sometimes breathless between numbers, but it didn't matter.

This was about the soundtrack not only to lives, but to generations, the music, like Sinatra's, that reaches out across decades, binds families, defines marriages, breakups, births and deaths. "Would we do it all again?" she asked her flock during The Way We Were. Well, what do you think?

Matthew d'Ancona is editor of The Spectator
Reproduced with permission: The Spectator