Brooklyn, NY – About a month before I went to see the theatrical force otherwise known as Barbra Streisand deliver one of her two “Back to Brooklyn” concerts, at the new Barclays Center, in downtown Brooklyn, I saw her perform at a memorial concert in honor of the late Marvin Hamlisch. Taking the stage at the Juilliard School, the seventy-year-old Streisand took us back to her first big show, “Funny Girl” (1964) for which Hamlisch was the rehearsal pianist. The name Marvin, she explained, was already familiar to her from her childhood in Brooklyn, and she imitated the way mothers would hang out of their windows as they called their own Marvins in for supper. At the Barclays Center, on October 11th (her North American tour continues through November 11th), on a stage ringed with glowing lights that evoked a Brooklyn Stoop during the holidays, Streisand talked about where she had been since then, and what it meant for her to come back. This was met by cheers from the more that sixteen thousand fans in the audience, but there was something mournful, too, about Streisand’s return to the borough where, before she became a star, her singular looks –an Egyptian-Semitic queen- and talent were mocked or ignored. In a sense, the Streisand story-the story that kept the arena eerily quiet for almost three hours-was a distinctly American one: the world said no until she made it say yes.
Between tunes from her enormous catalogue, Streisand kept checking in with the audience: Were we O.K.? Did we know we were sitting in an ice rink? Were we a little chilly? She was still Barbra the kook we all knew-she of the knock-kneed stance and the healthy interest in food-but she was also a new Barbra: the Jewish mother, calling her Marvin in for supper. She introduced her son, the musician Jason Gould, who sang two songs. It was a risky proposition, but Gould, with his big-chested sound and his tentative trust in the audience, convinced everyone of his talent within seconds-while Mama sat proudly by, silently projecting her always interesting narrative about where difference can lead you. – By Hilton Als – Excerpts from The New Yorker Oct 29 & Nov. 5, 2012.