Babs Plays the Holy Land
It was Barbra Streisand’s 100th performance in 50 years and the first time she performed in Israel—and most likely her last—when she took to the stage inside Tel Aviv’s Bloomfield stadium last Saturday night. The 71- year-old doesn’t like performing, she revealed, while explaining the presence of a giant teleprompter which broadcasted both lyrics and stage cues for all to see. “I performed in Central Park in 1967 and forgot the words to three songs, so I didn’t sing again for 30 years until I realized that a teleprompter would work, but hopefully you will look at me,” she explained with grace and humor to 14,000 very-accepting fans. I don’t think any of us had any trouble looking at her.
As she opened the show, the second of two in Tel Aviv, the seminal performer looked to her left and to her right and said, “there are people on both sides—had I known, I would have gotten my nose done…” But, we love her because she never did get a nose job, parading her Jewish beauty in all of its glory for generations of us. She makes us proud—of ourselves.
Between songs representing her repertoire from “Memories” to “People,” she chatted, drank tea from a flowered ceramic teacup and munched on a cookie because, as she explained, she hadn’t eaten all day.
Donna Karan, seated a few seats away from me in the VIP section, ran out as Barbra Streisand finished the last lines of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” presumably to help her friend with a costume change. Barbra is a Donna Karan muse and her flowing costumes on stage were Donna-designed. There was something particularly transforming about these two iconic Jewish women strutting their stuff in the Jewish state.
After several encores, her final song was “Happy Days Are Here Again,” the one song that didn’t quite translate to the Israeli audience. An anthem for Democrats from FDR onward, Barba added her commentary: “You had a woman Prime Minister-Gold Meir…I love Obama, but lets put a woman in the White House in 2016,” a clear reference to Hillary Clinton. With a “shalom, peace and goodnight,” she signed off.
I saw Streisand perform in Brooklyn this past fall in Barclay Stadium, and when I met her after the Tel Aviv concert she asked me to compare the two concerts. Perhaps it was the open air, the simpler production or my better seating, but her Tel Aviv concert seemed much more intimate.