What a night...
The final performance of [a]Burt Bacharach[/a]’s enchanting three-night-stand in Dublin is one of pure joy. Where pop’s modern breed of uninspired transients lip-sync three-song PAs in soulless scream-fests, Burt chooses the confined elegance of the National Concert Hall to unveil his timeless revue. And although tonight the timpani and violins are formatted into rather complicated-looking synthesiser set-ups, we are nonetheless swept off our feet by the endless hooks and lifts and poignant dips and dramatic crescendos.
Burt, of course, is centre-stage, tingling his fingers over a suitably austere black grand piano, with a scaled down line-up of bass, drums,trumpet, saxophone and three vocalists all awaiting his flamboyant direction. The hits (literally every tune) are often strewn together into heavenly medleys and miniature symphonies of golden age pop, glued together with knock-out chord sequences. The words, mostly those of the second-half of Burt‘s ubiquitous ambersand, Hal David, are performed by his singers with the same soulful panache of Dionne Warwick or Aretha Franklin or Sandie Shaw.
He’s not just the sublime pop melodicist, he’s a pure entertainer himself, stepping forward, with impeccable L.A. tan and silver-streamed locks, to introduce his various periods (the early hits, the movie themes, etc) or simply to regale us with his tales of horse-racing with Neil Diamond. He constantly chuckles to himself like a nutty conductor. He even tentatively sings a few tunes himself, the audience backing up his fragile voice.
Halfway through, one of his most celebrated pupils, Elvis Costello, bounces onstage and brings the house down. The Dublin resident squeezes out inch-perfect renditions of their collaborative Grammy-nominated ‘God Give Me Strength’ and Grammy winning ‘I Still Have That Other Girl’, about which Elvis states: “The best part was that we beat Celine, and we didn’t need a Harlem and Wolfe ship to do it”. And the bespectacled old punk croons divinely on the early Bacharach and David classic ‘I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself’, a tune he lavished over many times with the Attractions.
Apart from that, what you can say? ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’, ‘Walk on By’, ‘Do You Know the Way to San Jose?’, ‘The Look Of Love’… the hits roll off his piano like tears. Several standing ovations later, the track-suited Bacharach is backstage, working his way through an adulating queue of well-wishers, with the Taoiseach (Irish head of government) at the top of the queue. And the audience wander home still singing along to ‘Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head’. What a night.