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  • Writer's pictureSuzanna Kempner

Barbra: The Music, The Mem'ries, The Magic - A Sooz Commentary

I would be nothing without Barbra Streisand, one of my great inspirations. So when Netflix dropped her latest concert like a big plop made out of liquid gold I was on it like a dog on another dog's shit. Here is my (partially drunk) commentary on this Babs Netflix special.

We open with Barbra playing cards on a plane. An instrumental of On A Clear Day is playing and it sounds like what would play in a shopping centre in 1965. Barbra is at stage door of a venue and there’s an ice cream van and she’s really excited about this but they’ve run out of carrot cake ice cream so she decides to have mocha java ice cream even though “I’m trying to lose weight”. Fuck society’s body standards, Barbra, you go for the high-calorie option seeing as they’ve run out of super-healthy carrot cake ice-cream.

Next she is rehearsing Being Alive with her band and she slags off the drummer coz “he’s still going fast”. This complex musical terminology will baffle some, Babs! Her backing singers say that Barbra always knows what she’s singing. To prove this we then see Barbra tell the orchestra to use “tremulo strings” so that we can “really feel Papa is coming here”. Concerts are chilling! Then suddenly I feel guilty about writing any of this coz we see a snippet of Barbra singing the end of A Piece of Sky and FUCKING HELL STREISAND IS THE GREATEST. She is wearing a hoodie and Birkenstocks.

Now she’s doing her makeup and literally she does her own makeup. She says it's because she’s better than makeup artists or something. Her MD leads her to the stage and says “one song at a time and enjoy it”. Fuck off, mate, this is Barbra Streisand, she can sing as many songs at once as she damn well pleases.

Her manager says Babs gets stage fright and is constantly frustrated with her performances. I know how she feels coz once I did a 2-hour party hits set and I’m still haunted by how I flat-out know I could do Shout Out To My Ex better. Babs goes out on stage and an entire arena is on their feet and she goes “oh that’s so nice”. Time for more Sooz Guilt coz she’s humming the beginning of The Way We Were and IT’S FUCKING STREISAND I MEAN FUCK! Then she roasts a guy in the crowd for having his mouth open. She’s like Carson or something. I’m not sure I’m into this thing where she uses the lyrics “would we? Could we?” as audience participation but the crowd eat it up like they’re at Butlins so you do you, Barbra.

We’re one song in and Babs is already all “how about that news, eh? Yeesh!”. I bet there are a ton of Trump fans in that audience, dial it back, Barbra. She’s getting well feminist now too and pockets of the crowd love it. OH JESUS SHE’S SINGING EVERYTHING FROM A STAR IS BORN AND I CAN’T EVEN BEGIN TO DEAL WITH IT, FUCK, LOVE YOU BARBRA! Her phrasing on “move in to the White House” is making me do the backstroke round my living room with rainbows coming out of my mouth.

At this point I fully lose it coz she says “all you little girls out there, even if you want to be president don’t stop dreaming!” and I’ve got my hands in the air because YES BABS. And then she kicks me right in the heart with Being At War With Each Other and did you know this song is phenomenal? Coz it is. Behind her on the screen things are getting super leftwing and I swear it’s the only glitzy £8473275325 per ticket concert where the Twin Towers are on fire are behind the singer. It works. God she’s good.

She looks amazing by the way, she’s got on this sequin and lace pantsuit and it’s the classiest thing I’ve ever seen. No More Tears now with her backing singers and they are so great. She has intergrated them in to the show so well and one is super-preggo which I am enjoying.

Now she’s just showing a clip from A Star Is Born and being all “aren’t I great?” and I’m like “yeah you are”. and it’s all just a preamble to her smashing Evergreen. This time the projection behind her is falling blossoms and I think it would be a big mistake to put the Twin Towers on fire behind her here. She gets a standing O and goes “I’m so glad you liked that” like when someone tries your baking and you were worried that maybe it was too sweet but it was actually perfect.

It’s time for You Don’t Bring Me Flowers and this song has never done it for me UNTIL NOW coz Barbra is the greatest actor on the friggin planet. This is phenomenal.

Barbra is doing The Broadway Album now and was told “nobody will buy an album of showtunes” and she’s like “it went to number one” and we get it Barbra, needless to say you had the last laugh. Anyway, her arrangement of Being Alive is snacktacular and I’m having the best time, guys. People are standing with their hands up like they’re in church and I’m fully YOU ARE IN CHURCH AND YOU WILL WORSHIP YOUR GODDESS BARBRA!

She’s showing bits of films she’s been in and when Yentl pops up people start screaming like there’s a a crazed axe murderer in the audience. The aisles are gonna be running with wee soon coz people can’t handle the fact that she’s doing Papa Can You Hear Me and by people I mean me, I cannot deal with it, she sounds like liquid gold. She’s gone for thunderstorm backdrop, lighting and sound effects and SOMEHOW IT’S NOT TOO MUCH! OH BARBRA. And now we’re in to intermission.

Things get really weird here, we’re at a restaurant and a man answers the phone and it’s Barbra ordering chicken off the kid’s menu for after the show. The guy says “oh hi Barbra, I didn’t know it was you” and it’s very reminiscient of the flower shop scene in The Room.

Oooo act 2 and Babs has donned the most incredible gown. She knows it too, she’s all “heh, I know”. But enough about glamour, Barbra says the planet is fucked and all the bees are dying and we’ve got to do something. The crowd aren’t going as wild for this as they did for Yentl tbh. Following her environmental Ted Talk she’s singing Pure Imagination and the backdrop is beautiful scenery and, guys, I think Barbra Streisand is gonna save the planet. When she sings “come with me and you’ll be” on the word “be” there’s a picture of a bee on the screen and I got a real kick out of it.

Now she’s talking about Encore, her new duets album and her quip about “singing with Wolverine, I thought I had long nails lol” is pushing its luck honestly, but whatever.

She’s duetting with an old video of Anthony Newley and I’m getting creeped out right now coz Newley seems tortured in the video like his spirit is screaming for release like those cookies on Black Mirror.

But she’s reeling me back in effortlessly with Losing My Mind. The Streisand phrasing masterclass is in session, guys. Gonna be bold here and claim there is no better rendition of “you said you loved me or were you just being kind”. Now she’s bragging about getting her own tribute at the Lincoln Centre and Liza performed a song for her. I was about to be all “WOAH IMAGINE BEING THAT HUGE A LEGEND THAT LIZA SINGS A TRIBUTE TO YOU” and then I remembered that Liza sang at Bruce Forsythe’s 80th Birthday so it’s probably easier than you think to get a tribute song from Liza. And just as I’m giggling about that Babs launches in to Isn’t This Better which is one of my favourite songs of all time and, spoiler alert, she nails it hard. She drops an F-bomb amongst all this and nobody effs and jeffs like BS.

“Going back to the younger Fanny” WAIT, WHAT?! Oh she’s talking about Funny Girl. Arf arf arf. Then there’s a strange thing where the backing singers all have a go at Babs and this is the catalyst for DON’T FUCKING RAIN ON MY FUCKING PARADE. You know how this goes…….wait…….she’s showing a clip from Funny Girl of the boat nearly leaving without Fanny and Babs is getting really in to it like it’s happening in real time. I mean, something different innit.

Throughout the show people have been shouting “love you Barbra” and she always goes “ahhh yes, you too” etc and she’s obviously getting tired of it coz somebody else shouts it at this point and her thank you is curt. She now says racism is a big bunch of bullshit and uses this to segway in to People. There will never be too many renditions of People by our Babs.

OH HOLY SHIT! She’s brought Jamie Foxx on! They’ve both won Oscars but only one of them has been in Elmo’s Christmas Countdown. They’re singing Climb Every Mountain and Jamie Foxx is a RIDICULOUSLY good singer, holy fucking shit, guys, I think I just fell in love with Jamie Foxx. I wasn’t…I just wasn’t expecting this. I know he is probably the best ever boyfriend to Katie Holmes but I just feel like I have a lot to offer.

She’s smashing out Happy Days Are Here Again now and I want to tearfully sing this when the Tories are toppled in the next election which I hope is tomorrow. It’s awesome and she’s taking her bows. No Babs, one more, one more, pleeeeeease, oh, if only she’d sing one more.

She does. It’s her insane version of Jingle Bells and it’s weird that I’m watching this in February but I haven’t let it bother me. The percussionist is doing what I would consider: too much on the acting front. Thanks Barbra, that was a helluva show, I really got my money’s worth (I didn’t pay anything). BUT WAIT! There’s another song! OH GOD, she’s doing With One More Look At You from A Star Is Born. There’s some business with the band not knowing what song she’s doing which I’m sure is bullshit but I’m beyond caring at this point. Thank you, B-Streiz, for the music, the memories, the magic. She bows, she’s leaves the stage, our queen. BUT WAIT! THERE’S MORE! And Barbra is pretending she’s knackered when we all know she could sing all night. Someone suggests she sings The Way We Were again and Babs sasses him real snarkily. She blasts us with I Didn’t Know What Time It Was and that really is the end.

She walks off the stage and a small dog is waiting fo her in a jumper. I think if a small dog waited for me offstage like I was in a cartoon I’d have led a great life. Next it’s Barbra and her team scoffing that food she ordered in the interval. The food looks rad AF and Babs sprays a key lime pie with squirty cream like a 90s mum from Croydon.

Erm….and….now we’re closing on a montage to Closer from Barbra’s Christmas Memories album and the montage is….photos and video clips of that dog we just saw. I’m assuming the dog has died and that’s a real downer to end this concert on honestly. Oh well, RIP Sammie. Jesus. This is like when I saw Kes for the first time and I thought “one boy and his kestrel, what a great stor-OH MY GOD, HIS BROTHER DID WHAT!??!?”.

Sooz Kempner, signing off, goodnight.

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