Barbra Streisand back home at Barclays Center
When Barbra Streisand takes the stage at the Barclays Center Thursday night, it will be the Brooklyn icon's first public performance in her native borough -- only 51 years in the making.
"It's incredible that this is her first appearance in Brooklyn, that she never appeared here professionally," said Brooklyn Borough President Marty Markowitz. "Brooklyn did not have a venue for a star like her to play."
Now, it does. The $1-billion Barclays Center -- which opened last month and is home to the NBA's Brooklyn Nets -- gives the borough its first major arena, as well as its first major-league sports team since the Dodgers left for Los Angeles in 1957.
Bruce Ratner, the new arena's majority owner and developer, said he had dreamed of trying to make Streisand's milestone happen. "When I first thought about building an arena in Brooklyn, I always envisioned Barbra Streisand coming home to take center stage in her native borough," Ratner said in a statement. "It's humbling and almost surreal to welcome arguably the greatest entertainer of all time to Barclays Center. Barbra is Brooklyn and there's nowhere more fitting for her to perform."
Streisand, a 1959 graduate of Erasmus Hall High School who made her professional debut at the Village Vanguard in 1961, has said she's been thinking about a return to the borough for years, even starting work on a TV special called "Barbra's Brooklyn."
"Brooklyn to me means the Loews Kings, Erasmus, the Yeshiva I went to, the Dodgers, Prospect Park, great Chinese food," Streisand said in a statement. "I'm so glad I came from Brooklyn down-to-earth. I guess you can come home again."
Streisand -- whose new album, "Release Me" (Columbia), features previously unreleased tracks -- hasn't discussed what she plans to sing at her Brooklyn shows, though she is expected to be backed at times by the Brooklyn Youth Chorus. She has also said that her son, Jason Gould, will join her for a song, perhaps one they are working on for her upcoming duets album, which is rumored to also include a collaboration with Adele.
Streisand told Katie Couric that she had only recently learned Gould had taken up singing and when she heard him, she told him, "Jason, I have to sing with you," adding that he has never sung live before.
"We are truly honored to bring Barbra full circle, to the borough where it all started for her, just down Flatbush Avenue from her old neighborhood," Barclays Center chief executive Brett Yormark said in a statement. "We are continuing our goal to bring the best of everything to Barclays Center. Brooklyn, after all, deserves nothing less."
Streisand is shy but not retiring
Barbra Streisand isn't talking about retirement anymore.
The 70-year-old singer has used the "r" word in the past in regard to touring, in part due to her battle with stage fright, but her attitude now is "never say never."
"I said it's very tough to go on stage for two hours, and dress up, and wear high heels, and sing 22 songs a night," she told Katie Couric on a recent "Katie" show. "It's very exhausting. So every time I did it, I said I won't do this again. . . . It's turned out every six years I seem to do a few concerts."
It hasn't always been that way:
1994 What is billed as her farewell to touring is captured for a live album and DVD, "Barbra: The Concert."
2000 She comes back for a turn-of-the-millennium concert in Las Vegas and special shows in New York and Los Angeles. "It's bittersweet to say farewell to live performing," Streisand says, following what was to be her final concert at Madison Square Garden.
2006 Streisand comes out of touring retirement for shows to raise funds and awareness for The Streisand Foundation, which supports charities for education and health issues, as well as fighting climate change.
2009 To launch her "Love Is the Answer" CD, she plays a free show at The Village Vanguard.
MEMORIES . . .
My early childhood, we never had a couch, we never had a living room. We only had a dining room. And then my grandmother and grandfather lived in one bedroom, my mother and my brother and I slept in another bedroom. So we never had fancy things. We moved to another project in Brooklyn, and I remember the luxuriousness of this couch. Now I love couches, you know? I never had a doll, I had a hot water bottle." -- Streisand to Julie Chen, CBS, 2008
I sure didn't grow up in a house. No, I grew up in a little apartment in Brooklyn. I slept in the bed with my mother, and my brother had a little rollaway cot that came down at night . . . We had identities on that street in Brooklyn, and I was kind of known as the girl without the father with the good voice." -- Streisand to Scott Simon, NPR, 2010
I'm just very shy, but I'm also from Brooklyn, which means . . . also, in a sense, that I've had to survive." -- Streisand to Katie Couric, "Katie," 2012
WHO Barbra Streisand
WHEN | WHERE 8 p.m. Thursday and Saturday, Barclays Center, 620 Atlantic Ave., Brooklyn
INFO $90-$650; 800-745-3000, ticketmaster.com