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Burt Bacharach in concert

Perhaps the most tellling thing about the legend that is Burt Bacharach is that aged 90 he is performing at all.

I had expected that rather like another ageing maestro Otto Klemperer he would be going though the motions with some conducting but no over 2 hours he presented, played, sang and I was more tired than he.

He had a backing group of seven musicians and 3 vocalists but he was very much centre stage behind his piano.

Like many great songwriters you tend to forget how many memorable songs are in his canon.

Or that he can claim to have composed for so many well known singers – Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Perry Como, or the  number of films he scored Alfie, Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, Arthur, What’s New Pussy Cat?. What I would like to know about is the song-making process, how do those unforgettable tunes get composed?

The nearest we got to this was how, when asked  to score his first film “What’s New Pussy Cat?”, he was totally without inspiration walking Hyde Park in London to no avail. Eventually he came up with the title song that -much to his dissatisfaction – was played throughout the film. He even tried to dissassociate himself from the movie but the second of his four wives Angie Dickinson dissuaded him and the success buoyed him to write many more scores.

There was a supporting act, a pianist composer called A.R.Brown. He started late as there was some technical problem compelling us all to wait outside the auditorium in extreme sticky heat in the hall. This did not get me off to a good start. The singer’s act, with his grating over-familiarity with the audience, totally failed to engage me.

It was 8-30 before Burt Bacharach got on stage. He is a thin man dressed casually. When he took off his jacket an England shirt bearing his name and 9 was revealed. His style is easy listening although the chord structure can be complex which is okay if you have some friends around and want some pleasing background music but over 2 hours – as another critic on Rust observed of the Beach  Boys – rather like eating too much peaches and cream.

The audience was aged and familiar with the old numbers but I preferred the original artistes as performers. That he was 90 did not sustain me over 2 hours and his more recent songs lacked the melody of his more famous compositions. I felt my mind drifting off to other things and when at 8-45 I needed to visit the ‘’male multi gender loo’ (this is Brighton!) the temptation to leave before the crush was too great and I acceded to it.

As Bacharach said “First we have albums, then CDs, now it’s free.” The whole industry of light music has moved on since the hey day of Bacharach and it was more a case of having seen him and admired his longevity than to experience an evening and performance of inspiration.

About Michael Stuart

After university, Michael spent twelve years working for MELODY MAKER before going freelance. He claims to keep doing it because it is all he knows. More Posts