Urbane cowboy of the subtly subversive melody - Life and Style - The Independent

Urbane cowboy of the subtly subversive melody

Odd thing, hero worship, and this week it provoked a medley of surprise guest acts to pay homage and grab limelight on other people's stages. No one blamed them. It's just ... well, choose your moment, because some performers can't be topped.

You wouldn't automatically call Burt Bacharach subversive, but no one is more so. That's not because Noel Gallagher, given the opportunity, would lick his patent slip-ons, or because Marlene Dietrich, whose act he arranged, adored him so much she'd wash his underwear when they toured. Bacharach's subtle rebellion is in the way he changed the sweep of popular music as irrevocably as The Beatles. "Easy listening" couldn't be a less accurate term; the melodies he and lyricist Hal David turned out in the 1950s and 60s were full of shifting, unexpected rhythms it took an assured vocalist to manage. Bacharach has stories about the way Tom Jones faltered over the complex waltz time of "What's New Pussycat?", and even Sinatra couldn't quite negotiate the shifting terrain of "Wives and Lovers". Dionne Warwick had the range to break their sound - 39 hits in 10 years - but it was the enunciation of male vulnerability that set the duo apart, the blend of sensuality and self-denial of "Make It Easy On Yourself", the remorse and sexual yearning of "24 Hours From Tulsa". It's heady stuff, most likely drawn from life.

Bacharach was - maybe still is - a romantic, a workaholic playboy running a high-profile career plus strings of racehorses and beautiful wives; when he took the stage at the Royal Festival Hall on Saturday, it was easy to see why, at 68, he recently married a 35-year-old ski instructor. From his bow tie and immaculate cuffs to his craggy good looks he was the epitome of urbanity, and the audience - including Tony Blackburn and Soho hipster Count Indigo - was there to learn. Bacharach and David numbers aren't about adolescent infatuation but about dangerous Niagaras of fully fledged adult emotion, high-velocity passion built to last.

Burt played as though his life depended on it, one hand on the keyboard, the other conducting like a T'ai Chi master, describing taut, arcane shapes in the air. He was not above sending himself up - "There are three Academy Award losers in this medley," he huskily admitted. "How could I lose? At anything?" And in between "The Look Of Love" and "Raindrops Keep Fallin' On My Head", which he sang in a cracked alto, he proved himself a man of the people, murmuring glumly, "I am so ... sorry ... that England lost to Germany, I can't tell you." It was a night of hits without their signature stars, but though, for example, only Cilla Black's tough Northern soul can do justice to "Anyone Who Had a Heart", LA crooner Lisa Taylor delivered it in a mellifluous tremble and, as escalating strings reached a climax, turned it from a victim's lament into stormy, pitying insight. There were longueurs - "That's What Friends are For", co-written with Carole Bayer Sager, and the Neil Diamond-assisted "Heartlight", feyer than the Swingle Singers - but these were blips in a show that got a standing ovation, mainly for the man's track record. The previous evening, Noel Gallagher shared an encore duet on "This Guy's in Love...", which apparently saw him more nervous than he's ever been. The avuncular Burt, naturally, remained the definition of unruffled.

"I saw you / You slob / Puttin' sugar in my hog / I'm gonna get you / I'm gonna get you / In Montreal". Occasional solo artiste Fred Schneider, on the other hand, seems to have had everything ruffled: hair, face, psyche, the lot. At the London Garage, the man his press release calls the "inventor of zany" hammered the kooky frat-pop of his long-time band The B-52s into the dust by screeching shock-jock lyrics over heavy-duty thrash informed by the Undertones, the Cramps and all points punk. Debut album Just Fred led one to expect the worst, but Schneider had a Blondie-style live crew to provide a noose-tight backup. Fred's voice, though, is nothing if not atonally piercing, his addled spleen not always listenable. On Tuesday he sprinted through the album, bringing each song, including Harry Nilsson's "Coconut", to a vortex of twanging hysteria. At times, it seemed like behavioural therapy, which might explain John McEnroe's guest slot on frenzied guitar. Though "Secret Sharer" is coaxing, and "Helicopter" has a dastardly riff, most of the set consisted of ultra- noise. At a Fred Schneider gig, no one can hear you scream...

Screaming was a key mode of response at the Royal Albert Hall where Isaac Hayes, godfather of funk, was looking supernaturally fly. Son of a Memphis sharecropper, Hayes was holding down a job in a meat-packing factory when he started to sell soul classics - "Hold On I'm Coming" and "Soul Man" for Sam and Dave - but it was his own sub-sonic voice that made him the thinking man's Barry White long before White took the audience he'd primed. On Thursday, flanked by a big-boned band, Hayes proved that, with the right intonation, even a line like "Cerebellum, medulla oblongata" (from "Hyperbolic") can be disturbingly erotic. He delivered a spare, swooping "My Funny Valentine", gave us "Shaft" because he had to, then took Bacharach and David's "Walk On By", pulled out the bones and made it a remorseless, languid epic. As for surprise celebrity guests ... oh, please. If you were Isaac Hayes, would you?

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing
peopleThe report and photo dedicated to the actress’s decolletage has, unsurprisingly, provoked anger
Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Life and Style
ebooksA superb mix of recipes serving up the freshest of local produce in a delicious range of styles
Life and Style
ebooksFrom the lifespan of a slug to the distance to the Sun: answers to 500 questions from readers
The programme sees four specialists creating what they believe are three perfect couples, based on scientific matchmaking. The couples will not meet until they walk down the aisle together
tvUK wedding show jilted
Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
You've been framed: Henri Matisse's colourful cut-outs at Tate Modern
artWhat makes a smash-hit art show
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
Mikel Arteta pictured during Borussia Dortmund vs Arsenal
champions league
Yes supporters gather outside the Usher Hall, which is hosting a Night for Scotland in Edinburgh
voicesBen Judah: Is there a third option for England and Scotland that keeps everyone happy?
Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
Arts and Entertainment
Robin Thicke and Pharell Williams in the video of the song, which has been accused of justifying rape
music...and he had 'almost no part' in writing it
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

ES Rentals

    iJobs Job Widget
    iJobs General

    Senior QA Engineer - Agile, SCRUM

    £35000 - £50000 per annum + benefits: Ashdown Group: Senior QA Engineer (Agil...

    Marketing Executive - West Midlands - £28,000

    £26000 - £28000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Digital Marketing Executive (SEO, PP...

    Retail Business Analyst

    £40000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our retail client ...

    Senior C++ Developer

    £400 - £450 Per Annum possibly more for the right candidate: Clearwater People...

    Day In a Page

    Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

    A shot in the dark

    Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
    His life, the universe and everything

    His life, the universe and everything

    New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Save us from small screen superheroes

    Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
    Reach for the skies

    Reach for the skies

    From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
    These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

    12 best hotel spas in the UK

    Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
    These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

    Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

    Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

    Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    How to make a Lego masterpiece

    Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

    Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
    Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

    Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

    His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

    Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

    The Imitation Game, film review
    England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

    England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

    Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

    Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    ‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

    Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week