Burt Bacharach – Vector Arena November 7, 2015


Burt Bacharach-1958I was born too late to see Irving Berlin or Cole Porter or Duke Ellington or George Gershwin perform their own songs, but last night I was fortunate enough to witness another of the great American composers play and sing his own songs. And if you don’t believe Burt Bacharach’s name belongs alongside those other legendary names, take a look at the set list from last night’s show at Auckland’s Vector Arena and think again.

The show was billed as “An Evening With Burt Bacharach”, and that’s what we got…two hours of Burt at the piano along with his 7-piece band, three vocalists and the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra.

As the 87-year-old composer made his way to his Steinway grand piano if was clear that the years had taken a toll on his body, but when he sat down to play, it was immediately clear that his spirit and talent had not diminished in the slightest.

The show began with the three vocalists…Josie James, John Pagano and Donna Taylor…seated, singing What The World Needs Now Is Love, while Burt sat in the spotlight accompanying on piano.

With that acting as a brief warm-up, the show got underway with a medley of tunes Bacharach had written with lyricist Hal David. Every one of the seven tunes featured was an absolute classic and huger hit in the 1960s, many, like Don’t Make Me Over, Walk On By and I Say A Little Prayer, for Dionne Warwick.

This group of songs would enough to carry an entire concert, but Burt was just getting started. The hits just kept coming…Do You Know The Way To San Jose, Anyone Who Had A Heart, I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself, Any Day Now, Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa…incredible

Josie James performed most of the Dionne Warwick songs. Her voice seemed to have a similar lightness and dexterity that Ms Warwick possesses and she really proved what a fine vocalist she is with her passionate reading of Anyone Who Had A Heart.

Donna Taylor handled the other female-sung hits, the tunes calling for a little more power such as Etta James’ Waitin’ For Charlie. She seemed to struggle a few times, but then turned in a beautifully nuanced version of (They Long To Be) Close To You.

John Pagano had the toughest job as he tackled tunes that had been recorded for a diverse range of male vocalists including Tom Jones, Gene Pitney, Chuck Jackson and Herb Alpert.

This was the final show one this current tour and it felt like a special night. Burt brought his son, Oliver out to play a bit of piano…he was clearly proud to have him on the road with him.  They performed one song, In Between The Heartaches, for the first time. During Close To You, Burt invited a woman from the audience to sit next to him as the piano and then he sang a few bars of Magic Moments in tribute to his Australian promoter who had passed away a few weeks ago.

That touching moment was followed by another impressive medley…this time songs that were written for films such as The Look Of Love, Arthur’s Theme and What’s New Pussycat. Bacharach himself sang a good portion of them. Never a strong vocalist, his age added a poignancy to his voice that made the performances that much more powerful.

It wasn’t all oldies.

For the encore, Bacharach introduced two new compositions…Hush…which featured an incredibly beautiful violin solo by one of the members of the APO…and Carry On, a song about aging, mortality and leaving a legacy, which Burt sang, and which became another highlight of the evening.

After That’s What Friend Are For, Burt and his band returned to Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head to allow everyone in the house to have a good old singalong.

It was a masterful display of some of the most wonderful songwriting of the past 50 years. And the way it looks, Burt Bacharach isn’t finished yet.

Marty Duda

Click here to view a photo gallery by Mark Derricutt:

Burt Bacharach set list:

  1. What The World Needs Now Is Love
  2. Medley: Don’t Make Me Over/Walk On By/This Guy’s IN Love With You/I Say A Little Prayer/Trains And Boats And Planes/Wishin’ And Hopin’/(There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me
  3. Do You Know The Way To San Jose
  4. Are You There (With Another Girl)
  5. Anyone Who Had A Heart
  6. I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself
  7. Any Day Now
  8. Mexican Divorce
  9. Waitin’ For Charlie (To Come Home)
  10. Twenty-Four Hours From Tulsa
  11. Baby It’s You
  12. Message To Michael
  13. Make It Easy On Yourself
  14. On My Own
  15. In Between The Heartaches
  16. Something Big
  17. (They Long To Be) Close To You
  18. Magic Moments
  19. Film Medley: The Look Of Love/Arthur’s Theme/What’s New Pussycat?/The World Is A Circle/April Fools/Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head/The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance/Making Love/Wives And Lovers/Alfie
  20. A House Is Not A Home
  21. Hush
  22. Carry On
  23. That’s What Friends Are For
  24. Raindrops Keep Fallin’ On My Head