GIG: Burt Bacharach
DATE: Wednesday 26th June 2013
VENUE: Royal Festival Hall, Belvedere Road, London
COST: £50 plus £1.75 booking fee
OUR VERDICT: Magic Moments at The Southbank

The Royal Festival Hall has been the venue for many a great gig for us. From the numerous Brian Wilson gigs, to the poignant final Glen Campbell visit, it’s a special venue. So it was a fitting venue for us to celebrate more than 50 years of the sophisticated song-writing and arranging of the genius that is Burt Bacharach.

At the age of 85 he strolled on to the stage dressed in trainers, jeans and a brass buttoned jacket that wouldn’t have looked out of place on an airline captain. He looked comfortable, tanned and a little frail.
After acknowledging the warm reception from the audience, Burt and his band, featuring three vocalists, kicked off with “What The World Needs Now”, before the first of many medleys. “Don’t Think It Over”, “Walk On By”, “This Guy’s In Love”, “ “I Say A Little Prayer”, “There’s Always Something There To Remind Me” and more…... as far as The Beeb was concerned, he’d had his money’s worth already!

“I’ll Never Fall In Love Again” gave singer Josie James a chance to shine. Then Donna Taylor blew Cilla’s “Anyone Who Had a Heart” right out the window. She is a great singer, and the audience let this be known.
Burt chatted away telling stories, and not in a scripted way, telling us about being in his old regular London pub the night before. He moved between the grand piano and electric keyboard for different songs, and often stood up to direct the band. When he wasn’t laughing at his own little jokes,  he would sing along in the background to the songs.

John Pagano featured on “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself” before going into the Burt and Elvis Costello collaboration “God Give Me Strength.” It’s good to know that Burt and Elvis are working together again, this time for a musical.

Donna sang the little known song “Waiting For Charlie (To Come Home), written for Etta James. Burt was laughing at the end of it because, as he explained, none of the two of them ever knew how Donna would finish the song.

“My Little Red Book” followed, praising Manfred Mann’s recording, even if they weren’t musically sophisticated. Then we got the first four hits Burt ever had. “Magic Moments”, “The Story Of My Life”, the theme from “The Blob” and “Tower Of Strength”. “The Blob” featured Dennis Wilson on sax and popping his cheek!

A proud moment for Burt was when his son Oliver joined him on-stage for the first time, and he played keyboard on “Make It Easy On Yourself.” When a member of the audience asked for Oliver to come back on, Burt quipped, “He only knows one tune!”

We’d already had an evening full of wonderful hits before the band gave us another medley of Burt’s film songs including “The Look Of Love”, “What’s New Pussycat” and Burt singing a bit of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head.”

Still the hits kept coming, including probably the most sexist song ever written, “Wives and Lovers.” Then came the highlight of the night. Burt may not have the greatest voice in the world, but the way he put over “Alfie” before going into “A House Is Not A Home” didn’t leave many dry eyes in the Festival Hall. Then everyone joined him on “That’s What Friends Are For” to finish the set.

There was an encore of course, and much to the credit of this wonderful song-writer, he came back and performed two new songs. They easily stand up next to anything he’s written over his remarkable career. After a request from an audience member, “Baby It’s You” was played before a great sing-a-long version of “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head” closed the show.

Without a doubt, this was one of the finest gigs we’ve ever been to. It was a privilege to witness a musical genius like Burt Bacharach perform such an astounding range of hits in one evening. It wasn’t till later we realised he didn’t do “24 Hours From Tulsa”. Leaving something like that out shows what a high calibre the rest of the show was. 

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