As a Barbra Streisand concert neophyte, I didn't know quite to expect from the new Blu-ray/DVD release Barbra Streisand Live in Concert 2006. I knew the legend, and was well aware of Streisand in her cinematic context as actor and director. But Streisand is never more powerful than when she dusts off her repertoire for a farewell concert or a "whoops, it wasn't really a farewell last time" concert. In my lifetime, only one act could rival Streisand as a one-person live draw: Frank Sinatra. With Frank in the great beyond, it's up to Barbra to drive the world into hysterics with her rare public performances.
Releases to coincide with the truncated CBS TV special Streisand: Live in Concert, this expanded version runs 106 minutes, further expanded by over a half hour of bonus features. With the concert footage primarily culled from her Sunrise, Florida "centerpiece" performances, Streisand wows 'em with still limber vocals and polished banter. Though it's essentially old school, all the way, Streisand kept things irreverent with political allusions (though her infamous George Bush sketch is not included here). The orchestration and production are exceptional to say the least, conducted by music director William Ross and staged for a cleverly conceived arena-sprawling set.
The show was also designed to take the breath away from Streisand's loyal fans (and it better have, at ticket prices as high as $750) with all manner of stunts, including Babs self-depecatingly plinking out on the piano the first song she ever wrote and, at one point, calling out her frisky dog Samantha to play on stage with Mommy. Streisand shares the stage with the cheesy quartet Il Divo (you have to admit they have pipes, though), who sing with the star a bit and also hold down the fort while she takes a break.
Die-hard fans are better equipped to explain the relative momentousness of the selections on the set list, but the operative phrase in making the picks—according to the liner notes by Barbra's A&R man and co-writer Jay Landers—was "If not now, when?" While her mantra was "I only want to sing what I love," she delved into her back catalog to bring many lost (and some never performed live) gems to the surface, including early '60s tunes like "Nobody's Heart (Belongs to Me)" and "(Have I Stayed) Too Long At The Fair?" Also qualifying as an event: a suite of songs from Barbra's signature Broadway hit Funny Girl. Like Sinatra, Streisand is a great interpreter of standards with the good taste to know when to stay intimate and when to belt (and she's capable of both, with every shading in between). Here's hoping more of Streisand's work makes its way home on hi-def.
1. "Funny Girl Overture" (Original Broadway Version)
2. "Starting Here, Starting Now"
3. "Down With Love"
4. "The Way We Were"
5. "Ma Premiere Chanson"
6. "Evergreen" (With Il Divo)
7. "My Way" (Il Divo)
8. "Come Rain or Come Shine"
9. "Funny Girl"
10. "The Music That Makes Me Dance"
11. "My Man"
13. "The Music Of The Night" (With Il Divo)
14. "Jason's Theme"
15. "Carefully Taught"/"Children Will Listen"
16. "Unusual Way"
17. "What Are You Doing The Rest Of Your Life?"
18. Q&A (With "Stoney End")
19. "Happy Days Are Here Again"
20. "(Have I Stayed) Too Long At The Fair?"
21. "The Time Of Your Life"
22. "A Cockeyed Optimist"
23. "Somewhere" (With Il Divo)
24. "My Shining Hour"
25. "Don’t Rain On My Parade" (Reprise)
On hi-def Blu-ray, Barbra Streisand: Live in Concert 2006 looks mighty impressive, in a rock-solid image with excellent detail and vibrant color. Where it really counts, of course, is in the sound. Here we have three options: uncompressed PCM 2.0 , Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround, and uncompressed PCM 5.1 mixes, all of which offer sensational fidelity.
The BD also includes several "Bonus Features" (34:18 with "Play All" option, HD), beginning with four additional musical cuts: "Nobody's Heart (Belongs to Me)"/"When the Sun Comes Out," "The Woman in the Moon" and, performed by Il Divo, "Senza Catene" and "Regresa a Mi." Following the added songs is a selection of interviews with Streisand intimates: executive producer Marty Erlichman, music director Bill Ross, A&R man and co-writer Jay Landers, co-director/co-writer Richard J. Alexander, and TV producer/director Gary Smith. Last up is an interview with The Streisand Foundation's executive director Marge Tabankin.
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