Live review: Burt Bacharach, Kelvingrove Bandstand, Glasgow, Fri 26 Jul
- Henry Northmore
- 29 July 2019
Timeless classics from a true master of his art
'What the World Needs Now is Love' is a glorious way to start any concert. And it's just the first of many musical gems at the fingertips of songwriter and composer Burt Bacharach.
At the age of 91 it's amazing that Bacharach is still performing. When he shuffles on stage in his trackies, at first you worry this might be an exploitative ploy by money-grabbing management types, but when he sits down at the piano the years drift away, there's still a wonderful spark and fluidity to his playing. His between-song banter is equally sharp, dishing out anecdotes about his life in music while casually dropping names like Aretha Franklin and Dionne Warwick.
To cram in as much as possible Bacharach has to resort to several medleys. Brought to life by three singers, brass, strings, keys and guitar, the first pays tribute to collaborator and lyricist Hal David with 'Don't Make Me Over', 'Walk on By', 'I Say a Little Prayer' and 'There's Always Something There to Remind Me', among others, in quick succession. It's a remarkable collection of songs swiftly followed by full renditions of 'Do You Know the Way to San Jose' and 'Anyone Who Had a Heart.'
Seeing such a legend behind so many classic tunes is a thrill in itself but inevitably at 91 the band does much of the heavy lifting. There's a lightness of touch from Bacharach, with string and brass and pep and class.
At times it drifts into cheesy cabaret territory ('This House is Empty Now' loses most of its edge with John Pagano's slick delivery compared to the Elvis Costello original). There are also some weird song choices: why all of little-known Manfred Man track 'My Little Red Book' (which became a bigger hit when completely reworked by Love, ('my attempt at writing a rock'n'roll tune … I don't function very well in the world of rock'n'roll' he confesses beforehand) when only a snatch of 'Alfie'?
It's also surprisingly political. 'Mexican Divorce' is a sly dig at Trump, 'Live to See Another Day' directly calls for tighter gun control in response to the spate of high school shootings that plague America before Bacharach really gets fire in his belly as he proclaims 'get this guy outta office' in another rant against the Donald.
The Kelvingrove Bandstand fits the mood perfectly for the fantastic start to this year's Summer Nights sessions. Even the weather played ball despite the circling black clouds and the final singalong of 'Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head'.