Barbra Streisand O2 Arena London 18th July 2007
Another guilty pleasure?
This was my first visit to the O2 Arena London, and one of the first concerts to be held in the new arena. The O2 is a massive indoor arena located in the centre of an entertainment complex situated on the Greenwich Peninsula in London. It is, of course, named after its main sponsor, the telecommunications company O2 and has a capacity of 20. It is the first American-style, multi-purpose arena in London, the second largest arena in Europe (after the Manchester Arena), and the busiest concert arena in the world. From the venue website: “with the completion of The O2, AEG has given London what it has always needed: a world class entertainment destination. Under our already iconic roof in Greenwich lies a state of the art live music club, 11 screen multiplex cinema, exhibition centre, an entire street of bars, restaurants and leisure attractions, and most breathtaking of all – the O2 arena……The O2 is the first purpose built music venue since the Royal Albert Hall in 1871. The wait has definitely been worth it.”
The O2 was ideal and obvious venue to host a concert by Barbra Streisand. I’d fancied seeing Barbra in concert for some time, and regretted missing her previous visit to the UK. I’d read of her reputation as being the consummate lve performer, and the greatest and biggest star in the world. The biography on her website lists the following incredible achievements: “Barbra Streisand is the only artist ever to receive Oscar, Tony, Emmy, Grammy, Directors Guild of America, Golden Globe, National Medal of Arts and Peabody Awards and France’s Légion d’honneur as well as the American Film Institute’s Lifetime Achievement Award…..she is the only performer to have number one albums in five consecutive decades…..her 51 gold albums, 30 platinum and 18 multi-platinum exceed all other female singers.” Impressive or what?!
The publicity around this series of 4 UK dates (3 in London, with a date subsequently added in Manchester Arena) was as much about the price of tickets as Streisand, her music and her performance. Prices ranged from £100 to £650 a seat, with the whole of the floor area of the O2 being priced at £550 and upwards. I stumped up £100 for a ticket for the first night, right up on the upper level. I arrived early at the O2 to allow time for a good look around the venue and it surrounding complex, and must say I was impressed. The arena is a plush venue, sited with a larger complex,with bars and restaurants on every level. I took my seat, right up “in the gods” for the first half of the show, which started with the crowd giving Streisand a standing ovation before she even sang a singe note. Soon that powerful, emotion-full voice rang through the arena and we were treated to classic Streisand: “The Way We Were” and “Evergreen”; those familiar tones bringing tears to the eyes. I much prefer hearing the ballads to the stage hits, and wasn’t disappointed. I could spot some empty seats downstairs, some of the expensive seats remained unsold, so during the interval I made my way down to the floor level and sat in an empty £500 (ouch!) seat. No one challenged me so I enjoyed the second part of the concert with an excellent view. The latter half featured more classics: “What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?”, “You Don’t Bring Me Flowers” and “(Have I Stayed) Too Long at the Fair?”, along with a question and answer session, which got a little lost in the vast arena. For the encores I became a little more daring and moved right down front, I was now sitting about 5 rows from the front in a seat that will have been priced at £650, with a great view of Barbra as she stormed through “Don’t Rain on My Parade” and touched us all with a moving version of Chaplin’s “Smile”. Amazing.
Going to see Streisand was something I’d promised myself I would do for a long time, and I’m so glad I did. It was some experience.
Act I: Funny Girl Overture; Starting Here, Starting Now; Down with Love; The Way We Were; Ma Première Chanson; Evergreen. Broadway Singers set: Something’s Coming; You’ll Never Walk Alone; I Finally Found Someone (Streisand joins Broadway Singers). Funny Girl Suite: Funny Girl; The Music That Makes Me Dance; My Man; People.
Act II: Entr’acte; The Music of the Night; Jason’s Theme (instrumental); You’ve Got to Be Carefully Taught; Children Will Listen; Unusual Way; What Are You Doing the Rest of Your Life?; Q&A with Barbra; You Don’t Bring Me Flowers; (Have I Stayed) Too Long at the Fair?; William Saroyan: The Time Of Your Life; A Cockeyed Optimist; Somewhere; My Shining Hour.
Encores: Don’t Rain on My Parade; Smile; I’ve Dreamed of You
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Barbra Streisand O2 Arena London 18th July 2007