Burt Bacharach at Royal Festival Hall
A living music legend took to the stage of the Royal Festival Hall this weekend. Burt Bacharach performed a superb two-hour concert, combining an equal mix of his era-defining pop music, film scores and a few new pieces.
“It’s a tough time,” he explained midway through. “Whatever your side is, they are tough times in America. And working helps me – it may sound a cliché, but music really helps,” he stated, introducing a couple of new songs written (and on the night performed) by young American artist Melody Federer.
Pointing straight away to the heartening power of music, soul gem What the World Needs Now opened the concert. Sporting a Bacharach England jersey, the singer-songwriter reflected during the night on some of his biggest successes: the first film score, the talented friends and the funny events of one of his 60s singles. Mexican Divorce, written with Bob Hilliard for The Drifters, couldn’t be played in any radio stations at the time in the States because of the reference to the breaking of marriage vows. “If you think this happened before they built that beautiful wall…” Bacharach couldn’t stop himself from giggling. The slow swinging rendition of this piece beautifully singled out the acoustic component of the guitar.
The first medley of the night retraced the major hits written with Hal David for soulful Dionne Warwick. The selection included high-pitched Don’t Make Me Over, slow pop number Walk On By, I Say a Little Prayer and (There’s) Always Something There to Remind Me, which was further invigorated by trumpet and drum. The trio of voices on the stage alternated as much to recreate the incredibly ranging voice of the American singer and other original performers. But few singles were approached individually, like the powerful Anyone Who Had a Heart.
It’s impossible not to mention the emotional This House Is Empty Now for Elvis Costello. The melodic song, over years and years, unfailingly continues to move listeners deeply. Pop tunes dominated the first part, while the film records led the second half of the night, introduced by the very first commission the artist had for a movie in London: What’s New Pussycat?. Bacharach’s first attempt of rock in My Little Red Book was appreciated by the musician himself more in band Love’s version.
The night included other firsts, like a world premiere performance of With a Voice. (They Long to Be) Close to You gave goosebumps, just before another rousing medley featuring some of the historic music from movies, which saw Bacharach himself join the vocals: The Look of Love, Arthur’s Theme and the exquisite pop tune Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head.
After such a magical night, it was difficult to let the musician go, but the finale sweetened the closure of this grand concert, as the audience was gifted with the marvellous That’s What Friends Are For.
Photo: Daniel Knighton / Getty Images
Watch Burt Bacharach perform What the World Needs Now here: