Barbra Streisand fesses up to venturing out on her 2016 tour because she wanted to buy a painting, which is either refreshingly candid or a disingenuous slur towards fans who scraped together hundreds of pounds to see her perform. I hope the painting (a Modigliani apparently) was worth the money. I can honestly say, having stumped up around £500 plus air fare and hotel bills to see the show in her hometown of Brooklyn, that Streisand herself was definitely worth it.
Aged 74 at the time, she was still a sensational voice and to hear that voice live, deeper with age but still rich as chocolate and rousing as champagne, was worth every penny. Even more so, it turns out, since Streisand has since said her 'The Music... The Mem'ries... The Magic' tour will be her last.
If that's true then the show marks a triumphant exit from the concert stage. A celebration of Babs' 11 chart-topping albums in the US (allowing for some deep cuts alongside all the signature songs) as well as a showcase for her 'Encores' long-player, it's been captured for posterity across a Netflix special that began streaming recently and a just-released CD.
Well, two CDs actually – a standard version that cherry-picks the highlights and a deluxe double-CD package that presents the whole show. The latter is the one to go for, especially since it features three bonus tracks (including a beautiful 'Children Will Listen') that aren't in the TV special. It's an embarrassment of riches: 'The Way We Were', 'Evergreen', a plaintive 'You Don't Bring Me Flowers', a stirring 'Papa, Can You Hear Me?', Jamie Foxx slaying it as a duet partner on 'Climb Ev'ry Mountain', Babs putting her heart and soul into a note-perfect 'Losing My Mind'.
The between-song banter is witty and self-satirising, which shows Babs isn't losing her mind but is still sharp as a tack. She even defies her age by doing a bit of disco on 'No More Tears', with the backing singers standing in for the late Donna Summer – although that comes across better in the Netflix special than it does on record, as do clips about making the 'Encore' album.
Either way, whether you're watching on TV or listening to the recording, you get Streisand at full pelt. Sinatra was well past his peak towards the end and Tony Bennett's voice is going, but Babs still sounds incredible. Fingers crossed she'll do a Cher and renege on her pledge not to tour again. Let's just hope she sees another painting she fancies owning, the cost to the fans be damned!
The Music... The Mem'ries... The Magic is out now on CD and is streaming on Netflix.
Words by Simon Button