Barbra Streisand walked an artistic tightrope at Madison Square Garden Saturday night for her first Manhattan show in 13 years.
The outspoken Democrat had plenty she wanted to say about President Donald Trump and his administration, especially clear after warm introductions of President Bill Clinton and former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in the crowd, along with U.S. Rep. Jerry Nadler and National Action Network founder Al Sharpton. But she didn’t want to upset the sizable number of Republicans at her show.
So Streisand began her epic balancing act, building up enough goodwill so that even those who disagreed with her political jabs could go on happy. The early part of the show was like a breezy dinner party, where the host just happened to be one of the greatest singers of the world delivering torch songs like “Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?)” and “Evergreen” with stunning power and elegance, backed by a 15-piece band and musical conductor. There was also a look back at old photos, some discussion about her $800 Chanel flats and warm welcomes.
“I’d like to thank Billy Joel for taking the night off so you could spend some time with me,” she said, adding that his 112 performances at The Garden are more concerts than she has done in her entire career. Long Island natives Mariah Carey and Rosie O’Donnell, as well as Whoopi Goldberg and Broadway star Ben Platt were in the crowd as Streisand offered the front rows the occasional wave and passing comment.
Once the swing toward politics began, with introductions of her “political friends,” which included praising Bill Clinton’s balancing of the budget and her expectations of singing at Hillary Clinton’s inauguration, and talk of how a great president acts, she moved to level things again with a crowd-pleasing version of “Second Hand Rose” followed by a powerful “Don’t Rain on My Parade.”
She opened the show’s second act with a lovely, understated take on “The Way We Were,” a prime example of how she has taken the changes in her 77-year-old voice and often used them to her advantage.
After delivering a gorgeous version of “Send in the Clowns,” Streisand revealed she was working on an alternate version. “We decided not to do it because it’s not nice,” she said, before deciding to unveil it, telling the Republicans in the crowd to “cover your ears.”
“He says he’s rich, maybe he’s poor,” she sang to the tune of “Send in the Clowns.” “Til he reveals his returns, who can be sure? Who is this clown?”
Exclusive subscription offer
Newsday covers the stories that matter most to Long Islanders. We dig deep to uncover the facts, hold the powerful in check and keep a watchful eye on Long Island.
Your digital subscription, starting at $1, supports local journalism vital to the community.SUBSCRIBE NOW
After a couple more verses and some graphics that showed Trump in clown makeup and the White House as a big top, Streisand could hear some rumbling through the roaring laughter, but continued with “Walls” from her politically-oriented album from last year.
The balancing act went back into effect — first with a Brazilian-tinged version of “People,” then an inspiring combination of the children’s song “Sing” and “Happy Days Are Here Again.”
Streisand said she wanted to end the night with some unity and as she led a singalong of “What the World Needs Now Is Love,” she seemed to reach her goal.
SETLIST: As If We Never Said Goodbye / Any Place I Hang My Hat Is Home / Lover Man (Oh, Where Can You Be?) / The Man That Got Away / Evergreen / With One More Look at You / MEDLEY: Guilty > Stoney End > Woman in Love > No More Tears (Enough Is Enough) / Second Hand Rose / Don’t Rain on My Parade // INTERMISSION / The Way We Were / You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught > Children Will Listen / Send in the Clowns / Walls / People / My Man / Sing > Happy Days Are Here Again // ENCORE: What the World Needs Now Is Love / Alfie