Barbra Streisand said the last time she performed alone in Brooklyn it was on a stoop on Pulaski Street when she was 8. Thursday night was a little different.
In front of a sold-out crowd at the Barclays Center, Streisand stood in the middle of her "B"-shaped stage, dressed in a black, sequined Donna Karan gown. Surrounded by a full orchestra, she asked, "Who said you can't go home again?"
In her case, a lot of people. Her return to her home borough was one many thought would never happen -- partially because Streisand has announced her retirement from touring several times and partially because, until last month, Brooklyn didn't have an arena for her to use.
To celebrate her return, she filled her "Back to Brooklyn" show with local cues starting with "You'll Never Know," the first song she ever recorded, at age 13, shortly before she started at Erasmus Hall High School just a few miles down Flatbush Avenue from where Barclays Center stands today.
Streisand talked of hot bialys and even Jay-Z, calling him family in "You're the Top" because of their shared Brooklyn heritage. Though she was fighting a cold, even drinking chicken soup onstage, Streisand was in fine voice, especially during the power notes of "Evergreen" and the massive "Make Your Garden Grow," where she was backed by Italian operatic trio Il Divo, trumpeter Chris Botti and the Brooklyn Youth Chorus.
Celebrities turned out to welcome Streisand home -- from Rosie O'Donnell to Woody Allen, Barbara Walters and Sting to Mayor Mike Bloomberg. She seemed most thrilled, though, to be joined by her son Jason Gould on "How Deep Is the Ocean."
Streisand paid tribute to her friends and collaborators -- the late Donna Summer and Marvin Hamlisch with powerful versions of "No More Tears" and "The Way We Were" -- and mixed those classics with lesser-known songs, including Jimmy Webb's "Didn't We?" from her new compilation "Release Me," released Tuesday.
She also took questions from the audience that landed a zinger aimed at Republican presidential candidate Mitt Romney's quest against funding Big Bird. "I hope Mitt Romney doesn't find his way to Sesame Street or Pennsylvania Avenue," she said to loud applause. "He's a chameleon, isn't he?"
Streisand returns for another show in Brooklyn Saturday before continuing on with her rare tour, her first since 2006. ___
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