NEW YORK - It was an evening that elicited tears, standing ovations, raucous laughter and shouts of joy from the audience — and was just in the first few minutes.
Yes, Barbra Streisand’s return to touring after a 12-year absence was the extravaganza that it promised to be. Monday night’s show at Madison Square Garden was the third stop of a 20-city jaunt across the nation — a virtual lovefest between the ultimate diva and an adoring, sold-out, celebrity-dotted crowd.
Streisand effortlessly crooned through a select repertoire of the hits she’s amassed during her four-decade-plus career. But the night’s most riveting moment came during what was perhaps the only unscripted — and truly uncomfortable — episode in the three-hour show.
There was Streisand, enduring a smattering of very loud jeers as she and “George Bush” — a celebrity impersonator — muddled through a skit that portrayed the president as a bumbling idiot.
Though most of the crowd offered polite applause during the slightly humorous routine, it got a bit too long, especially for a few in the audience who just wanted to hear Streisand sing like she had been doing for the past hour.
“Come on, be polite!” the well-known liberal implored during the sketch as she and “Bush” exchanged zingers. But one heckler wouldn’t let up. And finally, Streisand let him have it.
“Shut the (expletive) up!” Streisand bellowed, drawing wild applause. “Shut up if you can’t take a joke!”
With that one F-word, the jeers ended. And the message was delivered — no one gets away with trying to upstage Barbra Streisand, especially not in her hometown.
Once the outburst (which Streisand later apologized for) was over, Streisand noted that “the artist’s role is to disturb,” and delivered a message of tolerance before launching into a serenely beautiful rendition of “Somewhere.” That put the focus back on what the audience came for — her voice, one of the greatest female instruments of her generation.
Streisand’s voice, at once soaring and soothing, doesn’t seem to have been affected much by her long layoff from performing. Earlier in the evening, she seemed to fall short of her full potential — moments where she once belted a tune she now seemed to simply sing at a steady register. But once the evening progressed, she got stronger, such as for her performance of one of her biggest hits, “People.”
I'm very very anti-Bush but am getting very sick of musicians lecturing us during concerts.