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13 October 2013

The night I saw Barbra Streisand

"Back to Brooklyn" 2012-Oct-13

EXACTLY ONE year ago, I watched Barbra Streisand in concert for the first time in my life. I've been a fan since 1980, and seeing her live 32 years later was a monumental rite of passage. As I write this, I can still feel the sensation of complete, mind-blowing, breath-taking bewilderment when she walked out and performed on stage. This was for real. It was a collision at the crossroads of memories of listening to her music, watching her movies, collecting every available memorabilia in Manila, and always getting inspired by her commitment and dedication to creative excellence.

On that chilly October 13 evening at the newly-opened Barclays Center in Brooklyn, the air was thick with excitement. Ms. Streisand had just embarked on a concert tour called Back to Brooklyn, and history was being created that week. Not only had she received rave reviews for the first two shows, she was performing in Brooklyn, her hometown, for the very first time. By then, I had already stopped having grand visions of what the night was going to be. In my younger years, because I lived in the other side of the globe, I never imagined when, where, and how it would be to see her in person.

And so I let the evening run its course. It turned out to be an exercise in suspended gravity over a few hours of mesmeric moments.

Ms. Streisand sang and moved on stage, which was several rows from where I was seated. However, I was so captivated with her physical presence that I couldn't—still can't—remember the order of the songs. I do remember the shock of realizing her small physical size (she's 5'5", tiny on stage), and the disbelief at hearing that familiar speaking voice. She chatted with warmth that made me feel like she and I had known each other personally for the longest time. At some point, I wished for the presence of my parents, siblings, classmates, and all those friends who had helped feed my love for Ms. Streisand through the years. She belonged in their lives as well.

The men and women who surrounded me were mostly as old as or older than me, well-coiffed and well-dressed. This could have been a New York crowd, though I knew from the online fan forums that there were others like me who traveled across the globe to be there. We were all perennially bathed in spectacular red, yellow, and blue lights. (I've never seen such fantastic show of lights in any other concert! They were a remarkable work of art, as you can sense from the Flickr photos above.) Throughout the entire evening, I couldn't shake off the lingering connection with this sonic crowd. I never had a chance for lengthy conversations with anyone—I was too transported—but just being there with them—listening, laughing, shedding tears, and reminiscing misty watercolor memories—was good enough.

When the show was over, I paused outside Barclays Center and observed the unforgettable sight of the concert-goers trekking out, filling the busy Atlantic Avenue and the subway stations dotting it, and literally stopping all traffic. Bridged by our tangible love for Barbra Streisand, we were one exigent community, ardently spanning the distance of place and time. We were very special people, the luckiest people in the world, that night.

Watch the closing number of Act One:

Images: Barbra Streisand, "Back to Brooklyn". Barclays Center, 13 October 2012
Source: Paul Ancheta on Flickr

Video: "Back to Brooklyn", Closing of Act One
Source: Paul Ancheta on YouTube.


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