About half way into Barbra Streisand Live, the star, sparkling in her spangly tuxedo, launched into a 10-minute "Ask Barbra" session. It is six years since she last played in London, and fans had been given the chance to fill in a card, on arrival, with a question for their heroine. One got the sense that these had been judiciously edited. "Barbra, how are you so beautiful?" enquired one. Barbra refused to reveal her magic formula, and displayed no false modesty, tipping the card back into the box from whence it came. This was not an evening for non-believers.
The first 10 minutes were a montage of photographs with an appropriate showtunes soundtrack provided by the string- and brass-heavy orchestra; Babs as a baby, Babs as an ambitious Brooklyn teen, Babs as a nascent star, in full Seventies pomp. It felt like an indoc- trination. And then she was among us (but not one of us) belting out "On a Clear Day", blowing away any suspicions that the voice might have gone. She is 71 years old, and it is as dominant as ever, heady and throat-catching. It is a bit huskier, perhaps, a bit deeper. Cracking ever so slightly when she sang "The Way We Were", which seems fitting for a song so dripping in nostalgia. She is not the girl she was.
"We love you!" people shouted out desperately in the lulls as Barbra sat on her stool and sipped her drink, setting it down next to a vase of red roses (she smelled these, at one point, as she mused about Life). "Thank you, darling," she replied.
The second half of the show began with a clip from the 1968 film, Funny Girl: Dolly/Barbra in her dressing room, having a visitation from no-good Nick (Omar Sharif). Then the real Barbra appeared in a fabulous floor-length red gown with pointy shoulder pads and its own in-built cape, to sing "My Man". And she was riveting, magnificent, powerful and vulnerable. Everything you want her to be.
She gave us the favourites: "Evergreen", "Don't Rain on My Parade", "People", even "Woman in Love" and "Enough is Enough" (disco still doesn't really suit her, nor her orchestra). But for all her Broadway brilliance, there were some deeply weird moments. Chiefly the film her son, Jason, compiled for her 70th, which we got to see. Picture after picture of Barbra and Jason, followed by "Happy Birthday Mom!" scrolling across the screen. Then this man-child bounced on to the stage and they sang a duet, on stools, staring at each other. "Do you know how much I love you?" "Do you know how many times a day I think of you?"
Earlier in the evening Barbra had explained that the thing about people from Brooklyn is that they are so normal.
No Barbra, you are not normal. Thank God.