Barbra at Last!

Tuesday 9th July 2020

I had imagined that we would be seated in the VIP area with Barbra a few feet away. But no, she was a speck,  either a witch or a guru in huge draperies by Zandra Rhodes with built-in gloves. One of the Lesbians from Brighton standing next to us asked, ‘Is it really her?’ As for the 50,000 or so kettled behind a fence, stretching as far as the eye could see into Hyde Park….

Beforehand we met an important Royal Parks person and next to us in the cafe was a young Guards officer to whom important Parks person gave some comps for the Barbra concert. This officer was an asset to the Parks, I can tell you – Insta, Love Island and posh, dream blend.  He said two soldiers had broken their backs falling off their horses in the park because of cyclists, which was high level information of great interest to the Trustees and Executives. With his girlfriend he departed in the opposite direction,though. Maybe Barbra was not his thing – or hers.

Royston had the VIP tickets, of course, probably some the greatest of all time. I still can’t believe I lived to see Barbra. Her greatness surpasses all fleshly existence even when seen in the flesh. All you can say is that, beside her, Bryan Ferry, the previous ‘act’, was as nothing, just a dreary businessman with a guitar. Suit needed several yards of fabric hacking out of it.

So at least six times a crescendo in the orchestra – surely the Star was nigh. But no Barbra. Tremendous shuddering in the crowd. Gays of all ages and superbly air-brushed women over 50, with no natural aspect to face or hair whatsoever, skin a perfect peach smoothness. Had Barbra not turned up it would have been enough. Just the idea of her would have been enough. Her actual person – little dark glasses and long tresses – caused a complex dip. Really it was a late psychedelic hippy look, but tidier. She launched at once into a song about fish and chips, somehow working in Meghan Markle in a rhyming ditty. She was reaching out to London and Great Britain beyond. But the voice! Still there at 77. Oh yes! That sound which nobody else can make and which ought to be showy and annoying but isn’t. Then there was banter.  ‘Well,’ Barbra said, ‘on the way here, the driver asked me if I went to Gay Pride. I said, “Why would I, when I’m going to see them all here tonight?” ‘  It was to be a Cabaret show, songs and patter, not the kind of thing normally attempted in a field with an audience of 65,000.I spied Zandra Rhodes herself just behind us atop the Celebrity Box where celebrities were kept. Nicky Haslam was there too, and the Beckhams, but we didn’t see them. Barbra, meanwhile, was purporting to be drinking tea at her tea-table and looking through old photos which were blasted up on to the vast screen. ‘I seemed to like the Cossack look,’ she remarked of a photo of herself in the Funny Girl days where she was furred beyond belief. Another showed Prince Charles eyeing her bosom: ‘I missed my chance,’ Barbra quipped, ‘to become the first real Jewish princess.’ It was at this point that Royston noticed that her spontaneous chat was in fact rolling by on an enormous auto-cue. You only had to turn round to see it. There were even instructions such as ‘cockney accent’. It was very strange because she appeared to be saying all these things for the very first time. Then more songs. All the favourites. Lionel Ritchie brought out to accompany and Kris Kristoffersen – who was shoo-ed away by Barbra after he’d done his bit possibly because too palpably clapped out and not up to it. Somebody came to fetch him from the stage. He’s 83. Barbra thanked the trees then gave ‘Silent Night’ as her contribution towards the environment. ‘But it’s July, Barbra,’ nobody dared to say.  A few bits went wrong. There was a deleted scene from A Star is Born and a song to go with it which got out of synch, apparently. It was all so confusing, I don’t really know.  Barbra kept saying, ‘We haven’t rehearsed this,’ and ‘Poor you, having to listen.’

It’s a lost world really, or is it? People like Barbra don’t exist any more, or not on that scale, the great star of stage, screen and recording studio, selling 165 million records. Yet 65,000 had thronged to see her and she was carrying on as before. Her little white dogs were wheeled onto the stage in a contraption. They were cloned from a favourite dead dog. It’s really true. Barbra took more tea. She sang ‘Send in the Clowns’. You wouldn’t say that there was a terrific finale nor tremendous pathos. Barbra is is just so incredibly great and thrilling. Nothing extra is required. Her show was completely riveting from beginning to end. ‘Why do Gays love her?’ Royston asked.  It’s not obvious. She’s not the drag-queen type, not outrageous and sexual, like Bette Midler, nor greatly beautiful, nor tragic like Judy; by her own account, nothing much has happened to her except Wardrobe made a Guard’s uniform for her son when she was filming in London in about 1967 (‘So cute!), she wasn’t deranged by fame; she is said to be vulnerable and stage-shy but doesn’t appear so. She became a huge star overnight 50 years ago and has remained so ever since. She’s indestructible. That’s it. That’s her story. Her voice is so absolutely her own in a way nobody else’s is, it soars and plunges. No matter how vulgar her octave leaps and other vocal gymnastics, it’s totally great. Whatever she does, it’s totally great. It just is. So the auto-cue rolling on with all her little quips and asides fully displayed as scripted and contrived – it didn’t detract from her glory, it added to it. That’s how it is with Barbra.

Sir Bryanland Ferry: Terribly Drear

Sir Bryanland Ferry: Terribly Drear

Sir Bryan Ferry: Retired Businessman: I'd Like to See that Suit Reduced to a Suitlette

Sir Bryan Ferry: Retired Businessman: I’d Like to See that Suit Reduced to a Suitlette

Barbra with Princess Diana

Barbra with Princess Diana: You can See her Tea Table 

Barbra with Lionel: They did 'Memories... Water-Colour Memories of the Way we Were'

Barbra with Lionel: They did ‘Memories… Water-Colour Memories of the Way we Were’

Barbra: by Zandra Rhodes

Barbra with Kris, Before He was Led Away 

Barbra Says Goodbye -for the Time Being. Note the Change of Frock.

Barbra Says Goodbye -for the Time Being. Note the Change of Frock.

 

 

Posted Wednesday, July 10, 2019 under Adrian Edge day by day.

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