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01 November 2006

FOCAL POINT : Barbra Streisand, “The Tour”

Barbra Streisand in WashingtonCRITICS HAVE been raving massively about Barbra Streisand's current North American concert tour since it kicked off on 4 October in Philadelphia. The tour showcases the reclusive 64-year-old entertainer on comeback with songs she recorded early in her 46-year-old career. From what I have read in newsgroups and fan sites, the vocal performances are grand, majestic, and wildly applauded.

The tour also hit the headlines for a different reason. The concert features a five-minute comedy skit halfway through, where Ms Streisand (a longtime Democrat), trades jokes with George W. Bush impersonator Steve Bridges (a Republican and friend of the real George W. Bush's!). The skit has elicited protests from three hecklers in Philadelphia, New York City, and Fort Lauderdale. Ms Streisand's onstage replies are now classic: she shouted down an expletive to quieten the jeerer in New York City and offered to repeat whatever words offended the heckler in Fort Lauderdale.

Yesterday, yet another news hit the headlines: someone threw a paper cup onstage at one of the two Fort Lauderdale shows. Thankfully, it missed Ms Streisand. The scene-stealer, who turned out to be a drunk Australian with no political motive, attended the concert in lieu of a guest of Ms Streisand's! I wonder if the real guest and the Australian are on speaking terms the morning after.

As a Streisand fan since 1980, I regret missing the shows: the tour may actually be her last one ever, in light of her age. Teeny Matias, a friend from college, wrote me last week about watching the Toronto show. ( “It was fabulous!” he raved. “When they said it was sold-out, they were not kidding—no empty seat despite the ticket prices!”) He reminded me of the cassette of Streisand songs that I gifted him with in college. Oh, that cassette! It was part of my youthful years filled with consuming passion for Barbra. For that particular 90-minute cassette, I spent weekends selecting songs that I thought Teeny would enjoy most, one weekend recording them in chronological order from 1963 to 1984, and another weekend deleting and re-recording those I thought were not exciting enough. THEN I went on one more day perfecting a freehand pencil portrait for the cassette's cover.

And all this while being a sophomore student at the university. Now you know what I meant by “consuming passion”!

Ms Streisand has pledged millions of dollars from the concert proceeds to NGOs dealing with the environment, women's health, and education. The 20-city tour ends in Los Angeles on 20 November.


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