Barbra Streisand admitted it herself: She’d been upstaged by a new generation of Babs wannabes.
“My niece saw ‘Funny Girl’ and asked me why I was singing songs from ‘Glee,’ ” Streisand quipped from the podium at Friday night’s MusiCare’s event in downtown Los Angeles, where she was being honored by the Recording Academy as person of the year. It was practically a “Glee”-themed evening, as no fewer than three numbers were performed by members of the show’s cast, including Kristin Chenoweth and Matthew Morrison belting out “One Less Bell to Answer” and Lea Michele doing her best Fanny Brice on “My Man.”
Being the showbiz royal that she is, Streisand was introduced by no less than Prince, one of the evening’s surprises. Bill Clinton sent his well wishes via video, but otherwise the heavy hitters stepped up: Stevie Wonder, whose “You and I” Streisand covered in 1975, exercised his trademark melisma on “People”; Leona Lewis wowed with “Somewhere”; Seal evoked Luther Vandross on “Guilty” (with Streisand later hinting of a potential duets pairing); and Faith Hill wrung pathos from “Send in the Clowns.” What’s more, Herbie Hancock, Diana Krall and Tony Bennett summoned a jazzy elegance, while Barry Manilow infused “Evergreen” with his requisite polish.
Streisand gave a shout-out to the Egyptians for “democracy triumphing over the tyranny of dictatorship.” But ultimately the evening was a tribute to the Great American Songbook and Streisand’s unrivaled power to move the masses with her voice.
“I love music for what it does to the soul and how it elevates emotion,” she said, and proceeded to prove it with a 30-minute set. There was no skimping on this main course.