Burt Bacharach Royal Festival Hall, London
Friday 05 July 1996
Several of the most famous songs were tossed away in the form of medleys, which is the kind of thing one can get away with when there's so much gold in the archive. Bacharach's choice of featured tunes was sometimes surprising. He had a strong quartet of female singers to handle most of the principal lyrics, but he seemed to enjoy some of the instrumental pieces even more, and it highlighted the bizarre inconsistency in his work. The score of Casino Royal may have included "The Look of Love", one of his loveliest melodies, but it also contained a piece of tack called "Bond Street". Burt gave us both of them.
The great Bacharach is squarely within the material he wrote in the early- to-middle Sixties, when he and David seemed effortlessly to hit a succession of peaks. Some of the songs were almost too sophisticated to succeed. The banal sentiments of "Wives and Lovers" are transcended by the sublime melody, the controlled drama of "Anyone Who Had a Heart" is measured against a curious construction which seems to start the song in the middle. "Alfie", which Bacharach acknowledged as one of his favourites, unspools as a single flowing line. Hearing these impeccably shaped pieces of craftsmanship, one after another, underlined how Bacharach bridged the old-school professionalism of Tin Pan Alley with the hook-bound direction of modern pop.
Trouble is, he couldn't sustain that level of excellence. There is a country mile between the vintage Burt and the likes of the ghastly "Arthur's Theme" or the California pabulum of "Heartline", even if he doesn't profess to hear the difference. When the orchestra tackled the most recent material, the otherwise adoring audience grew more muted in their applause. Burt can't help it: he's a nostalgia merchant. But at least he won't die penniless. He spent a lot of the show telling us about his racehorses.
BBC Trust agrees to axe channel from TV in favour of digital moveTV
FestivalsFive ways to avoid the portable toilets
Jurassic WorldThe results are completely brilliant
Arts & Ents blogs
- 1 Michael Douglas regrets 'embarrassing' Catherine Zeta-Jones with oral sex comments
- 2 Tunisia hotel attack: Locals form 'human shield' to protect hotel from gunman Seifeddine Rezgui
- 3 Tunisian builder has been hailed a hero after knocking gunman to the ground with roof tiles
- 4 German ethics council calls for incest between siblings to be legalised by Government
- 5 Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L James's Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Amy Winehouse film director: 'I wanted to show the fun, bright-eyed girl we didn't know'
Orange Is The New Black season 3 episode 1, review: The Ross and Rachel-ness of Piper and Alex is starting to grate
The picture of a man crowd surfing in a wheelchair at Glastonbury is brilliant, but it wasn't taken at Glastonbury
Fifty Shades of Grey author E.L James's Twitter Q&A didn't go exactly as planned
Guillaume Tell, Royal Opera House, review: Gang rape and stripping naked of female actor met with boos
The moment a Queen's Guard soldier lost it and drew his gun at annoying tourist
Greece crisis: The wider lesson is that it’s time to abandon this failed experiment in currencies
'I wish the BBC would stop calling it Islamic State' – David Cameron unleashes frustration at broadcaster
David Cameron struck double blow in his hopes to win Britain a new EU deal
Extend Right To Buy to tenants of private landlords, Labour's Jeremy Corbyn says
Pentagon accuses Russia of 'playing with fire' over nuclear threats towards Nato