We pulled into the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas hearts aflutter at the dream team we were there to see. The crowd arriving in a few hours was there to see a singer named Barbra, but we were there for the team that made the show happen: Chris, Kevin, Ian, Steve and Blake.

Streisand at the MGM Grand.

Yep, it’s a Streisand tour, something that happens pretty rarely. When she jokes with guest star Chris Botti during the show about him doing as many shows in a year as she has done since 1963, it’s not a joke. We counted. (Thanks Wikipedia). After an aborted run in ’66 and 26 years away from the stage except for specials and one-offs, there was a tour in ’94, one in 2000 and one in 2006 prior to this run. About 75 dates total with a box office of right around $250 million. Take that, U2.

“You’ll notice we have a fairly high ticket price.” That’s how FOH engineer Chris Carlton started our interview. And it was appropriate because that fact does drive some of the system design. The MGM is a small-ish arena (17K max) and we’ve seen a lot of shows there. But this is one of the few where we saw an extensive system of delay speakers set to make sure that every word the singer sang or uttered was as clear for those in the “cheap” seats as it was in the front row. That clarity and coverage have been part of the formula since Babs first hit the concert stage again after a quarter century away.

carlton the soundman

FOH engineer Chris Carlton

For the 1994 tour, Streisand turned to Bruce Jackson—engineer extraordinaire for clients including Elvis (six years) and Springsteen (a decade), system designer and recipient of the Parnelli Audio Innovator award for his work in developing technologies that touch every part of the live audio world—to build a team that could serve two masters: First, the boss. Back in ’94, Streisand had a reputation for pretty extreme “butterflies” onstage. Making her totally comfortable was a huge challenge that entailed using technology of nearly two decades ago to create a completely controlled environment onstage. Second, the other boss…the audience…the audience that is paying premium price even for the “cheap seats.” Creating the best-sounding show money could buy from any seat means this is not just another rock show. Example: At the MGM show, the entire arena floor had been carpeted at substantial expense. (continued)