When Babs Came to Town
Have you ever seen a real, live legend? I have. This Saturday, I went to see Barbra Streisand live in concert. Earlier in the week, she landed in Israel to participate in President Shimon Peres’s birthday celebration. But unlike many of the other famous guests, Streisand spent the week in the Holy Land, toured the country and gave us a once in a lifetime opportunity to see her performing live.
She does not perform very often. In fact, this performance was roughly her 100th concert ever. But that was just another reason to pay an unreasonable amount of money to go see her. Though I’m not a die-hard fan and only know a few of her songs, I waved goodbye to 1,500 shekels for two seats (one for my Grandma, the true fan in the family) and what I knew would be an opportunity worth taking. After all, as Fanny Brice once said: “I gotta fly one, I gotta try once, only can die once. Right, sir?”
She was everything I imagined, and more: Glamorous and larger than life, but also modest, full of appreciation to the 16,000 people who came all the way to Yafo just for her. She loves her fans, and her fans love her. She has the remarkable quality of making a single member of a large audience feel like this is a one-on-one private meeting with her. True, she cannot reach the high notes she could in her “Funny Girl” days, but it doesn’t make her voice any less beautiful nor her songs any less unforgettable.
From “Don’t Rain On My Parade” to “Woman In Love,” I enjoyed my favorites and discovered new ones. But even more than the songs, I appreciated the monologues in between. In two and a half hours, Streisand opened her life to us, told stories from her past, and shared thoughts about her present and her future. She sat comfortably on a chair, looked straight at each and every one of us, and revealed herself with grace and humor (“Ever since I forgot the lyrics to three of my songs during a concert, I have a teleprompter. I just hope you are still looking at me, and not the thingy “or “If I had known there would be people sitting on the sides, I would get my nose done.”). She told us about her family, and even screened a video her son, Jason, made for her birthday, right before he joined her on stage.. She also answered questions from the audience, making an effort to pronounce the names and cities correctly, with an Israeli accent. “Now that you have a Doctorate, what should we call you?” someone asked. “Just ‘What’s up, Doc?’” She replied with a wink.
Babs (after such a jaw-dropping performance, we`re on first name terms) has this remarkable quality of being so human (asking us if we mind waiting a few seconds while she finishes her cookie, right after intermission) down to earth with a healthy sense of humor (Playing the 2010 hit, “Barbra Streisand” by Duck Sauce, during intermission) while remaining larger than life. When she sang “Hatikvah,” the Israeli national anthem, there was something in the air that cannot be described in words.
Here, in Israel, we do not take international concerts for granted. Because of controversy or outside pressure, big names do not to stop by very often. We appreciate every singer, musician and actor who lands here mostly because, lately, it has become a political statement. But Barbra was more than an artist performing here. She is one of us, true Israel fan and a proud Jewish symbol. Not just an actress, or a singer, but a true star. She probably won’t read this, but I still want to thank her. So thank you, Barbra, for making Saturday night unforgettable. Thank you for being the wonderful person you are.