Barbra's Standing Ovation

Barbra Streisand on the first night of her two nights at Madison Square Garden, the farewell tour, 9-27-00
It was a bittersweet farewell Thursday night as Barbra Streisand performed what she said was her last live performance.

"It feels like time to say goodbye to this part of my life," Streisand said during her parting words to a sold-out Madison Square Garden.

The crowd seemed touched, but as the long standing ovation might attest, was reluctant to say goodbye.

"There's a magic about her. Chills just go down through your spine. It's hard to let her go," said Alan Zaslow, who came from Philadelphia for Streisand's curtain call.

The show, titled Timeless, was a retrospective of her life and career. Between songs, Streisand shared memories of her early days playing small clubs in Greenwich Village, singing with Benny Goodman's orchestra and doing duets with Judy Garland and the Bee Gee's Barry Gibb.

The show opened with a skit of Streisand, portrayed by 15-year-old Lauren Frost, and her mother at the young singer's first recording session.

As Streisand recalled, the piano player told her she would never make it because she was "too undisciplined," that she "could never sing the same way twice." Streisand then joined Frost for a duet of Something's Coming.

Streisand, whose live performances have been few and far between, also explained to the audience why she couldn't bring herself to perform live for nearly 30 years.

She described playing in Central Park in the late 1960's where she was struck by such tremendous stage fright that she couldn't remember the words to three songs. "I was so traumatized," she said.

Streisand appeared to be over her stage fright Thursday, quickly warming up and singing with a full orchestra backing her.

She performed a 28-song set, including many notable numbers like There's a Place for Us, Send in the Clowns, Don't Rain on My Parade from the show Funny Girl, and closing with her signature People.

At one point, Streisand performed a duet with herself, standing in front of a screen playing a scene from the movie Yentl.

Streisand reminded the crowd that she had no intention of retiring, but that she wanted "what everybody else wants: more time to do things for myself and to live my life. I have been working since I was 11."

In announcing her last tour, Streisand said, "Now that I'm happily married, I want to live life with the person I love," Streisand has said, explaining her decision.

She married actor James Brolin in July, 1998.

The celebrities were out in force at the Los Angeles stop of her farewell tour and again Wednesday and Thursday nights in New York.

In L.A., it was the movie crowd – John Travolta, Kevin Spacey, Angelica Huston, Helen Hunt, Goldie Hawn, Sidney Poitier, and Sydney Pollack, along with musicians Burt Bacharach and Neil Young.

A different group of famous faces streamed into Madison Square Garden, among them Madleine Albright, Vince Gill, Amy Grant, Rosie O'Donnell, Penny Marshall, Drew Barrymore, and Sarah Jessica Parker.

O'Donnell said she turned out because she's always been a big fan. Parker hit another note, saying just like Streisand's politics, Barbra herself "is swell."

Others were less famous but maybe even more excited to be there. One group of fans said they drove "all the way from Boston."

Tickets for the Thursday night concert reportedly went for as much as $8,000 on the black market.

But some scalpers found themselves cutting their prices as showtime drew near and one says some of the top seats may have gone for as little as $700.

Little, that is, from a ticket scalper's point of view.

A spokesman for Streisand, Ken Sunshine, says he's glad to hear that some scalpers lost money on the deal.

"We're thrilled about that," said Sunshine, calling scalpers "the scourge of the industry."

The best seats came with more than a good view. You also got a VIP bag of gifts and a pre-concert dinner.

While this wasn't Streisand's first farewell tour as a singer – she made the rounds once before, in 1994, she says this time was for real although she will continue to make studio recordings.

With 42 gold albums, Streisand is second to Elvis in the all-time charts, ahead of both the Beatles and the Rolling Stones, with number one albums in each of the past four decades.

It's not like the award-winning 58-year-old singer, composer, actress, director and political activist is going to have a lot of time on her hands, as she's not retiring and is only ringing down the curtain on her live concert career.

Among other things, her production company is currently working on a film spotlighting the Mideast peace process by focusing on the lives of Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin and Palestinian President Yasser Arafat, leading up to the moment of their historic handshake at the White House.

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