BWW Review: BARBRA STREISAND, British Summer Time Hyde Park
The best thing about the day was that it was Barbra Streisand. She's a legend and she knows it. Her presence is very impressive and she thrives on the love that radiates from the crowd. The 65,000-strong audience were all there to see her and the other artists were a bonus.
There were around 10 artists across three different stages. The Kingdom Choir - of Royal Wedding fame - were excellent. They made a great sound and got the audience going. Their setlist was a good mix of their gospel favourites and crowd-pleasers; an Aretha Franklin medley went down very well.
On one of the smaller stages, Jamie Lawson did brilliantly - drawing in a crowd, teaching them his songs, and getting them to sing along. He's very similar to Ed SHeeran, for whom he is somewhat of a protégé. He has the same "young ginger lad in a T-shirt with a guitar" appeal, and it comes with a self-deprecating sense of humour.
Lawson made a lovely joke, which he repeated from an earlier interview. When asked about his setlist he said he would do "all his hit", which, for those who don't recognise the name, is "Wasn't Expecting That".
Back on the Great Oak Stage, Kris Kristofferson didn't quite seem to have the energy to hold such a huge crowd alone. His musicians sounded great and it made for a nice backdrop to an afternoon in a park, but as a festival act, he didn't blow the audience away.
Roxy Music's Brian Ferry's set was accompanied by some very impressive graphics - fire and lanterns and a journey along a highway. The performance values, too, were fantastic. The crowd was singing dancing along, and it was a great way to get everyone warmed up for the main event.
There was a long, orchestral build-up to Streisand's set, and the audience were going crazy even before she came on stage. She had her dress especially designed by Zandra Rhodes so everyone could see her: it was bright pink, flowing and flamboyant.
It certainly did what Streisand intended and really suited her. She looked beautiful and was in her element on stage. Her costume change halfway was into a sexy black robe with a slit up the leg. She looked every bit the diva.
Her set had the overall feel of a tribute concert but with her actually performing it, which was a little odd but still enjoyable. There was a photo slideshow of her life and she talked through some memories of her career and previous visits to London.
She knew her audience well. She made a great joke about how Princess Margaret should have come to see her in a show "on a night she wasn't there" to get the full Streisand Experience. Every time she mentioned the Queen, there was a cheer. There was also a great response to more political comments about climate change.
We were treated to a deleted scene from A Star is Born which, despite being out of sync, Streisand styled out well. Then Kristofferson came back on stage to rapturous applause. She shared a touching memory of first seeing him performing at the Troubadour with no shoes on. The two reunited to perform together, which was a lovely moment, but perhaps the one song would have been sufficient - Kristofferson didn't need his own set.
Other guests included Lionel Ritchie, returning after performing alongside Stevie Wonder at BST to ramp up the party atmosphere, and Ramin Karimloo. He had to cover while Streisand went for her costume change and it felt a little uncomfortable - like he was filling rather than taking the stage.
They performed a duet from The Phantom of the Opera and, sadly, Streisand's voice did not stand up against his. They work in very different styles and their voices did not blend well.
The "London version" of "As If We Never Said Goodbye" was a great opening and very funny. The section of hits from the 80s went down the best, especially "Enough is Enough". There were a couple of songs from Funny Girl in there, naturally. "Send in the Clowns" was very emotive.
Sadly, "Don't Rain on my Parade" was really disappointing. Streisand was out of time with the orchestra, forgot the words, and it was anticlimactic overall. It's a shame as it should have been the show-stopping number. She made excuses about not having rehearsed it. And this wasn't the only song when she did that, although it was the biggest letdown.
There was a point at which she pulled someone up for filming her, rather than applauding, and noted that she couldn't tell if she was getting a standing ovation as everyone was standing already. It seemed a bit "forced diva". It was also a little uncomfortable when she brought her dogs on stage, saying they didn't like showbiz lifestyle. It seemed cruel.
However, it was a real honour to see Barbra Streisand in person, and the atmosphere was amazing. In the words of Ramin Karimloo, she's "a strong, fierce, beautiful woman" and "an amazing human being". And he's absolutely right. I think there was a small element of her not being able to live up to her own legend, but it was still a truly enjoyable evening.