Royalty returned to Kings County last night as Barbra Streisand performed in her hometown for the first time since she left the borough more than 50 years ago.
"Barbra: Back To Brooklyn" kicked off its first of two New York City performances Thursday evening in the new and very polished Barclays Center.
The sold out arena housed more than 18,000 screaming Streisand fans, including the likes of Woody Allen, Rosie O'Donnell, Regis Philbin, and Katie Couric, all eager to witness the highly anticipated homecoming. And while the venue is impressive in its size and grandeur, it ain't no match for Ms. Streisand.
The show started with a montage of photos from Streisand's earliest years that set the tone for the evening: This show was as much about reminiscing as it was about where she -- and the borough for that matter -- have come.
The curtains dropped to reveal a sensational 60-piece orchestra divided into two rectangular pits and conducted by the tour's musical director Bill Ross. Streisand rose from the center of the stage, dressed head to toe in black sequins.
"Like the outfit?" she later teased. "Donna Karan!"
Quite appropriately, Streisand opened with a touching "As If We Never Said Goodbye," complete with lyrics in Brooklyn's honor. The phrases were delightful, highlighting the "Brooklyn docks and nova lox" and encouraging audience members to "tawk amongst yourselves."
Streisand's voice, though phenomenal without doubt, grew raspy at times. And while she seemed vocally more cautious at some climactic opportunities, the 70-year-old singer is certainly still killing it.
During a moving tribute to her dear friend and sometimes-musical director Marvin Hamlisch, Streisand accompanied "The Way We Were" with his original film orchestration. That first oh-so-profound hum seemed to awaken all the senses all over again, a feat that only Streisand can achieve.
Perhaps due to the cold she recently woke up with (that led her to sip chicken soup on stage), she did not take the song up into its higher range.
However, she did take "Don't Rain On My Parade" to new levels - a spectacularly fun and loose rendition that was part of a larger Broadway medley. The audience was on its feet, roaring in applause in no time.
Streisand's banter with the audience is one of the reasons why seeing her perform live is so fun.
"Do you know you look like Dick Cheney?" she told an audience member in the front row. "This is what happens when I look at the audience, not good."
After a brief intermission, Streisand sang "Smile" with pop-opera trio "Il Volo," and moved into more classics with famed trumpeter Chris Botti.
Streisand's son Jason Emanuel Gould joined her on stage to perform "How Deep Is The Ocean?"
"Do you need a sweater? Chicken soup?" a kvelling Streisand asked. Their duet was beautiful - tender yet powerful. The Josh Groban comparisons seem inevitable because Gould is simply outstanding (and wears the same hair style).
Streisand grew somewhat political at moments, talking about environmental protection before performing Leonard Bernstein's "Make Our Garden Grow" with the Brooklyn Youth Choir.
During an audience question-and-answer bit, Streisand addressed Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney and his vows to axe PBS funds.
"I hope no one shows him the way to Sesame Street--or Pennsylvania Avenue," she quipped to great reception. (Streisand made the exact same comments at her earlier concert in Philadelphia.)
She closed the main show with an effortless "Some Other Time" before returning to deliver an energetic "Happy Days" for an encore, recalling her wonderful 1963 duet with Judy Garland and surely sending concert-goers home with skips in their steps.
"It's as if we never said goodbye," Streisand sang when she opened her first-ever Brooklyn concert. But we did for some time, and we're all the better for it.
View a slideshow of some of Streisand's most notable performances below:
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