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TV REVIEWS : Something Lost, Something Gained in Streisand Concert

Rule 1 in pop music: Concerts are never as good on TV as they are in person. Rule 2 in pop music: Barbra Streisand breaks a lot of rules.

So, which rule applied Sunday night when the year’s most acclaimed concert tour finally reached the nation’s living rooms via HBO?

“Barbra Streisand: The Concert"--which was largely shot last month at the Pond of Anaheim--was a case of something lost, something gained. The primary loss from the live shows--and it was substantial--was much of the overriding sense of ambition and drama.

The drama of Streisand’s tour grew out of the energy and enthusiasm of thousands of fans each night seeing the first series of live shows in more than two decades by a singer-icon who had avoided the concert stage for so long, in part because of stage fright.

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The ambition resulted from the marvelously personal nature of the show itself: both the thematic design--a warm blending of music and dialogue that spoke about everything from childhood daydreams to relationships--as well as an inviting, tea-room stage set.

Neither of these elements was fully captured in the telecast, where both the energy of the crowd and the nuances of the show itself were frequently neutralized.

Some of the special effects--including Streisand singing along with footage of Marlon Brando from the film “Guys and Dolls” and singing with herself from “Yentl"--worked wonderfully. Compared to the original production, however, this was like a sampler, albeit a classy one. It was not precisely the way we were.

What was gained on HBO was a more revealing glimpse of Streisand the singer. In the large arena setting, you were touched mostly by the grace of her manner and the beauty of her voice. Up close Sunday, you got an intimate view of a performer who felt liberated and free--and it was a joy to behold.

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