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After insisting for years that she didn't enjoy live public performances, Barbra Streisand finally came out of hiding and delivered exactly what all of her fans had been dreaming of - and much more. Despite giving many live performances over the years on television shows and fund-raisers, this was actually the first real concert tour of Streisand's career. She decided it was time to finally conquer her intense stage fright and, at the same time, give something back to the fans who had been begging to see her perform live for years. The show's pricey tickets sold out instantly, and fans eagerly awaited the day of the concert. Little did anyone know that Streisand would not only meet the huge expectations that had been placed before her, but that she would greatly exceed them - the '93-'94 concerts will be forever remembered as one of the best things she has ever done.
From the slow emergence of the perfectly-selected opening song "As If We Never Said Goodbye" to full-throttle splendor of the closing selection "Somewhere," Streisand treated her audiences to a spectacular evening. She opened herself up more than she ever had before, and allowed her fans to spend time with the woman behind the superstar. The first act of the show was more like one of her sixties television specials (particularly MY NAME IS BARBRA) than a traditional concert, with insightful and humorous "therapist" monologues peppered throughout the first half. Streisand effectively reminisced about many of the events that shaped her life as an entertainer, and the song selections perfectly complemented the stage dialogue. The songs performed in this half are not the typical "greatest hits" set that most artists perform, but were selected because of what they represent in Streisand's life. It works flawlessly, with the well-known selections ("People," "Evergreen") folding into the context as easily as the lessor-known material ("I'll Know, "Will He Like Me").
The second act is performed more like a traditional concert, however Barbra still lets her guard down quite a bit when she discusses her relationships to her son and goddaughter, both of whom she dedicates songs to. The original New Year's concerts at the MGM Grand was finally released on DVD (and home video period) in March of 2004, and it features a slightly different song listing and finds Streisand sounding fantastic. The concert that was recorded for the Triple-Platinum-selling double-CD set was performed at Madison Square Garden in New York, in which the fact that she was performing in her own home-city made the show seem even more poignant. The concert that was broadcast on HBO and NBC was performed at Anaheim, Canada, which was the last stop on Streisand's tour. She was fighting laryngitis at the time, but Streisand still sounds great despite a couple of scratchy notes. This version of THE CONCERT is the one that won five Emmy awards in addition to the prestigious Peabody award.
Streisand sounds absolutely terrific in all three recordings of THE CONCERT, and she shows us once again why she is the greatest vocalist of all time. While she unarguably has a gorgeous, God-given singing voice, it is the nuance and emotion that she commandingly brings to every song she sings that really places her in a class by herself. Listening to her explore the lyric of well-written song is easily one of the most exciting things there is, and that sentiment is expressed multiple times throughout this remarkable concert.
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