Warwick and Bacharach, Ringing Familiar


Los Angeles Times Monday December 11, 1995 Orange County Edition Calendar, Page 2 Type of Material: Concert Review

CERRITOS--You didn't need a playlist to identify the tunes that Burt Bacharach and Dionne Warwick performed Friday at the Cerritos Center for the Performing Arts. Nearly every selection was of the songs-that-need-no-introduction category, and even the most casual fans seemed to have no trouble recognizing all but one or two.

Even the more obscure numbers rang with a certain familiarity. There was that voice, among the most friendly pop music has ever known, immediately identifiable, singing the strongly lyrical music that has been Bacharach's signature, complete with the composer's pianistic embellishments.

Even the numbers originally recorded by someone else--including "What the World Needs Now Is Love," a hit for Jackie DeShannon in 1965, and the Carpenters' "Close to You"--sounded as though they'd been written especially for Warwick.

Such tunes as "(There's) Always Something There to Remind Me," "Make It Easy on Yourself," "Alfie" and "I'll Never Fall in Love Again" (all part of this program) seemed to haunt the '60s. While the fledgling hard-rock movement better represented the turbulence and social upheaval, Bacharach's music served as the soundtrack to our personal and emotional lives outside the revolution.

So it follows that nostalgia played a large role in magic of this 90-minute concert. Before the two ascended the stage, a scrapbook collage of films and photos was projected onto a screen above the 26-piece orchestra. Bacharach and Warwick were shown as tots, and their years of working together were chronicled as the ensemble played an overture centered on "That's What Friends Are For."

After their entrance, Bacharach introduced the first tune he and Warwick did together, the 1963 hit "Don't Make Me Over." From there they strode immediately into "Walk On By."

Though the years may not have diminished the attractions of Bacharach's material, they have made their mark on Warwick's voice. Though her characteristic sound remains intact, her tone is overall a bit huskier, and her upper register has lost some of its pureness. (Certain tunes were notable by their absence. Has "Promises, Promises," never an easy tune, become too difficult for her current capabilities?)

But her phrasing is more adept and natural now, which became especially apparent when she tagged echoing lines onto Bacharach's piano or his thin vocals.

The composer joked about his singing ability, quoting a reviewer who said he was a brave man to sing on the same stage with Warwick. But somehow his voice fit just fine into "This Guy's in Love With You" (probably because we're used to hearing Herb Alpert's equally weak voice on the original single).

Bacharach's sound was so veiled during "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" that it moved like a ghost, offering only a shadow glimpse of the lyric. Still, he seemed to have a wonderful time performing his material for Warwick. Conducting from the piano, alternately standing and sitting, he directed the orchestra with sweeping gestures of his head while singing right along, albeit off-microphone. He addressed the audience with charm and modesty.

The material was arranged for maximum emotional content--strings for poignancy, brass for upbeat affirmations. Occasionally medleys, of which there were many, would segue abruptly in a way one wouldn't expect of a composer with Bacharach's seamless skills. But the songs themselves were framed expertly, and with a touch of sweeping dynamics.

Without Warwick, Bacharach performed his "New York Lady," a piece written for the Houston Symphony Orchestra. Tied to an attractive, repetitive theme line, the ambitious pop number highlighted his lyrical skills without benefit of a singer.

Bacharach announced that Warwick was suffering back problems and therefore was moving around the stage more than she is accustomed to doing. And in fact, at the end of the show, she was walking gingerly and seemed uncomfortable. Yet she still summoned the required strength and enthusiasm for the closing number--(what else?) "That's What Friends Are For." The program was scheduled to repeat Saturday.

Copyright, The Times Mirror Company; Los Angeles Times, 1995.

KOHLHAASE, BILL, POP MUSIC REVIEW; Warwick and Bacharach, Ringing Familiar; Orange County Edition., Los Angeles Times, 12-11-1995, pp F-2.