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Stuart King

Review: BARBRA STREISAND in Hyde Park

Barbra Streisand Sunday evening to Hyde Park, to see the legend that is BARBRA STREISAND in the latest of a series of Barclaycard sponsored BRITISH SUMMER TIME concerts. But OMG what a sloppy effort!

The show itself was horribly uneven, underrehearsed, and an extraordinary shambles in several places. A few songs were terrific, but then Ms Streisand would duet with someone — seemingly completely unprepared — and the results were frequently excruciating.

Kris Kristofferson whose set earlier in the programme as a support act, was massively tedious and underwhelming, sounded like he was mumbling and on sedatives (or another planet), but he’s 83 so it’s perhaps excusable.

Lionel Ritchie inexplicably appeared out of nowhere and sang The Way We Were as a duet with Babs, but clearly he either didn’t know the song, or his earpiece was playing something by the Sex Pistols because the result was an utter train wreck.

West End and Broadway leading man regular Ramin Karimloo covered a costume change for Streisand (after an ad-libbed exchange of sycophancy) with something from Love Never Dies (known widely in theatrical circles as Paint Never Dries when out of earshot of Lloyd-Webber himself) during which the band kept exploding through the amps and his mic disappeared altogether. He hit some blisteringly impressive notes and then when our leading lady returned to stage in something black, flouncy and funereal, they ‘duetted’ on her version of Phantom’s Music of the Night. No attempt at an arrangement or harmonies, just a competition to see who could belt notes and (in her case) who could remember the words or at least read the autocue surreptitiously.

Whilst La Streisand included oddities like Silent Night (in the middle of July?) she ended the concert with a fantastically moving tribute to her own heroine and friend Judy Garland, with The Man That Got Away. Before that however, she succumbed to the utterly naïf affectation of parading her three pooches on stage in a baby buggy and making wearisome simplistic comments about unnamed politicians and their lies intended as crowd pleasers which simply induced yawns. These were interspersed with feigned planetary concerns and an eco-lesson during which she suggested we all plant trees so that we might stop fish (and thereby us) swallowing plastic. Perhaps she thinks we all have gardens the size of Hyde Park, but alas!

Both the clips from her film version of A Star Is Born (which co-starred Kristofferson back in 1976) were relayed on a big screen behind her, complete with the audio out of synch by about 3 seconds. It was symbolic of the evening’s general technical ineptitude.

I’m so pleased I was there and have finally seen this extraordinary talent in-person, but boy oh boy, do I wish I had seen her twenty years ago. At least then, she would have rehearsed, would still have been able to pitch majestically, would have kept time and might not have resorted to cheap camp capers to engender familiarity in a bid to make a connection with her audience, presumably to justify the horrendous ticket price (for which we were all evicted from our picnic blankets by heavies at one point and told to stand for two hours)!

Thankfully Bryan Ferry’s set beforehand was a lovely jaunt back to the 70s/80s with much of his Roxy Music back catalogue covered - which had virtually everybody engaged and dancing before the tragi-comedy main event unfolded.