There are at least two criteria that one probably uses these days in evaluating the vocal talents of Barbra Streisand: How does she sound in comparison to other major singers, and how does she sound for a 70-year-old woman?
Judging from her Friday night concert, the answer, on both counts, is "amazing."
The lady's been a first-tier celebrity for nearly six decades, so it was only natural to wonder if she's now content to coast. But she's rarely sounded better.
She still has the power and desire to belt out numbers such as "Don't Rain on My Parade" and "My Man" with the ferocity of a hungry lion. Yet, she knows when to pull back and caress tender melodies such as "Bewitched, Bothered and Bewildered," and "My Funny Valentine."
Some of her albums of late suggested she had fallen victim to overstatement. But her sensitivity to lyric here and her willingness to put herself at the service of a song made old hits such as "The Way We Were," "Evergreen" and "People" feel new.
She remains an actress who sings. Standards that we've heard all our lives sound new when they come from her because she seems to be discovering the emotion behind them for the first time.
She wisely shared the stage with other powerhouses.
The Italian classical-pop trio Il Volo was in great vocal shape. The members demonstrated flip sides of their gifts with an overwhelmingly rousing "O Sole Mio" and a passionate but understated "Smile," which gave Streisand the opportunity to show she can blend in as easily as star.
Trumpeter Chris Botti helped magnify the evening's emotional bent. You never got the feeling that Streisand's co-stars were mere filler.
The diva re-created her famous 1963 Judy Garland duet with her sister, Roslyn Kind. Streisand sang "Happy Days Are Here Again," while Kind countered with a slow, moving "Get Happy."
Perhaps the biggest surprise was the unveiling of the sweet, angelic crooning of Streisand's 45-year-old son Jason Gould. The man's proved himself a capable actor and creator of short films, but there hasn't been much mention made of his vocal prowess.
Between Roslyn, Jason, matriarch Diana (who was a skilled amateur opera singer) and Babs, the Streisand family circle has been disproportionately blessed.
The between-song patter was kept to a minimum, but what there was was pleasantly chummy.
One sour note: Streisand's brief ridiculing of the Republican Party brought a mixture of loud applause and boos. She acknowledged that music transcends politics. It's just too bad she didn't follow her own advice.
But the final number, Leonard Bernstein/Richard Wilbur's "Make Our Garden Grow" (from "Candide") blended with Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim's "Somewhere" (from "West Side Story"), made it easy to forgive.
Streisand's poignant rendering of the song's spirit, backed by more than two-dozen choir members and a 30-piece orchestra, gave a fleeting glimpse of what heaven must be like. If that sounds like gushing, well, the kid deserves it; not just for her talent, but for how well she has nurtured it.
Rarely has anyone done so much with so much.
Anthony Del Valle can be reached at vegastheaterchat @aol.com. You can write him c/o Las Vegas Review-Journal, P.O. Box 70, Las Vegas, NV 89125.