Burt Bacharach is frail now. He is 87 and he looked it as he hobbled on stage at the Crown Theatre. But sitting at the piano he exuded authority and freshness, every inch the world’s ‘greatest living composer’ as he was proclaimed at the 2008 Grammy Awards.
Backed by his band (a slick group including five keyboards, violin, trumpet and reeds plus a rhythm section) he revealed his legacy: hit after hit from a catalogue of over 500 songs. For an impressive two uninterrupted hours the sound track of our lives unfolded, songs that will forever be associated with someone’s graduation night, that wedding, funeral, or movie.
|Bacharach and band at the Crown Theatre|
The opening medley featured iconic collaborations with Hal David including the bouncy Do You know the Way to San Jose, Say A Little Prayer and a breathy Anyone Who Had a Heart. The vocals were shared between the sassy Josie James, the elegant Donna Taylor and the versatile, smooth John Pagano.
Bacharach’s songs are predominantly but not exclusively breezy and buoyant; the time signature changes and chromatic melody line in What’s New Pussycat? were a reminder that Bacharach studied composition with modernists Darius Milhaud and Henry Cowell. And a set of movie classics became darkly intimate when Bacharach sang solo from his piano. Raindrops Keep Falling on My Head lacked sparkle, but in the more introverted Alfie a stillness descended on the audience as the octogenarian mused ‘what’s it all about?’.
The pin drop moment came when Bacharach closed the concert with the first performance of an unnamed new song with lyrics by Tim Nichols. The melody was haunting and Bacharach’s voice thick with emotion as he sang: ‘The day will come when I will have to leave you/ But I will leave the best of me with you.’
This review copyright The West Australian newspaper 2015.