In the lead-up to her much-anticipated performance in Jaffa on Thursday evening, Barbra Streisand promised her Israeli fans some surprises.
She didn’t disappoint one bit.
As if talking about her Jewish roots and her love for Israel wasn’t enough, her emotional rendition of “Hatikva” at the end of the show is something that the 16,000 or so audience members at Bloomfield Stadium in Jaffa will remember for the rest of their lives.
It was to be expected that a legend as professional and as classy as Streisand would belt out some of her biggest hits to standing ovations from the crowd. But what made this particular concert so special was Streisand’s connection with the audience.
It was impossible for the Israeli crowd not to fall in love with her after her opening comments in Hebrew of “Shalom Tel Aviv, bruchim habaim” (“Hello Tel Aviv, welcome”). While devotees around the world have a special connection with the singer that they have been listening to for decades, when Streisand talked about being in Israel and coming back to her roots, the tone was set for a unique connection between performer and fans.
Even before she opened her mouth, the locals took to their feet for a standing ovation to welcome the international superstar that they had waited for so long to see perform live.
While the 71-year-old didn’t look her age at all, dressed in an elegant long black number and perfect make-up and hair, there were times during the first half of the show when she experienced a few “senior moments.” There was an instance when she mixed up the words to one of her songs and another when she forgot what song was coming up. But it didn’t seem to matter. She recovered from these moments with her sharpness and professionalism that have made her what she is today. She even made fun of the teleprompters that she famously uses to help her with the words.
It wasn’t until a heartfelt rendition of “Woman in Love” that she really showed off her full vocal capabilities. With most people singing along and a standing ovation at the end it was clear why this concert was so worth the wait.
Streisand may be a world superstar, but she is still a Jewish mother at heart. It was very apparent that she was schlepping a lot of naches when her son Jason Gould, 46, joined her on stage for an emotional duet of “How Deep is the Ocean.” She was every bit the fussy Jewish mother while he was on stage, making sure that he looked the part and telling the audience how proud she was that he had a bar mitzva.
With the Middle East heat getting a little too much for her, Streisand left her son on stage and changed into a sparkly black trouser suit. Complete with a new look, she started talking about her father and it was obvious that she was going to launch into “Papa, Can You Hear Me?” from the film Yentl
The standing ovation at the end of the number was testament to the heart and soul that she put into the performance.
During the busy show, Streisand found the time to sit and answer questions written on cards by audience members beforehand. She spoke about singing the Passover Four Questions in yeshiva school and how chicken soup is at the forefront of Israeli and Jewish medicine. A comedienne as well as a singer. Shortly before the break, she gave her fans a few special treats. The first was an emotional rendition of “The Way We Were,” which she dedicated to the late composer Marvin Hamlisch.
Then, hankering back to her musical theater roots, she went on to do a medley that started with “Gypsy” and ended with “Don’t Rain On My Parade.” In true diva style, she gave an exaggerated performance full of energy and left the stage in a dramatic fashion.
Yet another costume change, this time into a stunning long red number, and Babs was back in action. She showed her vocal range with the likes of “What’ll I Do,” “Lost Inside of You” and “Evergreen.”
While all these songs were met with rapturous applause, and rightly so, it wasn’t until she finished an emotional version of the classic “People” that the audience was once again on its feet applauding and cheering.
She continued to tell stories that made fans clap and cheer in admiration. She talked about how last time she was in Israel she planted trees in honor of her father and on this visit she went back to visit the site and saw how the trees had grown. With this she invited her 60- piece orchestra as well as the Tel Aviv Chamber Choir and special guests to join her for a resounding performance of “Make Our Garden Grow.” The crowd once again was on its feet.
In what was a slightly awkward moment, Streisand invited her sister Roslyn Kind to join her on stage for a duet. There seemed to be some sibling rivalry, with the women taking small jabs at each other where possible. Despite the slight tension, their performance of “Smile” was simply magical.
Even though it was apparent that the show was coming to an end, everyone present knew that Streisand wouldn’t come all the way to Israel and not sing in Hebrew. When she mentioned that she had already sung “Avinu Malkeinu” at President Shimon Peres’s 90th birthday party, it was apparent that this was the point that she would give the fans what they really wanted. She chose to go one step further by singing “Hatikva.” There wasn’t one person left in their seats. She mispronounced some of the most important words, but it didn’t really matter. The passion and emotion in her voice while singing the national anthem of her nation as 16,000 people sang along with her was more important than anything else.
The energetic diva had one more song up her long, flowing sleeve. If it was up to her she would have taken a longer break before coming back to do an encore, but even Barbra Streisand isn’t exempt from the law that prohibits making loud noises in public after 11 p.m. She hurried back on stage and did a rushed but excellent performance of “Some Other Time.”
The Israelis making their way out of the packed stadium at the end of the night had lots to say about the concert that they had paid hundreds, and in some cases thousands, of shekels to see. While there were some little criticisms here and there, the vast majority had only good things to say. And rightly so. It may have been a long time coming, but good things come to those who wait.