from the Edinburgh Evening News, July 30, 2002

Reviews: Burt still has what the world needs now

By David Pollock

Burt Bacharach The Playhouse **** NO MATTER how young or old you are, no matter how rock 'n' roll or fastidiously cool, all our lives have been touched by Burt Bacharach in some way.

Whether it was a first date watching Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid, or a recent induction following the patronage of Noel Gallagher or Elvis Costello, or even a childhood Boxing Day sat in watching Arthur, everyone has a "Burt moment" in their past somewhere.

And that's because, over more chart hits, movie scores, and stone classic songs than it's practical to list here, Bacharach - most often in conjunction with lyric-writing partner Hal David - devised some of the finest examples of infectious pop music orchestration ever heard. So it was something of an honour that the maestro himself - now a mere 74-years-young - honoured us with his presence.

Bacharach originally performed virtually none of the songs he's most famous for writing, but just to see him actually tinkling the ivories for our pleasure was cause enough for excitement.

Come the post warm-up interval, and a slow but steady handclap had already built up for Bacharach. All because the band happened to be on stage setting up.

The six musicians and three singers took their seats as the lights dimmed before Bacharach himself made a spotlit entrance. The reception was a warm one, but after a perky introduction of What The World Needs Now Is Love, things took a momentary - and entirely unexpected - turn for the unpleasant.

For whatever reason, someone up the back couldn't help chattering over Burt, leading one or two direct souls in the audience to invite him to shut up.

Although Bacharach was obviously fazed , he recovered like a true showman and informed us casually: "I feel like I'm at a rock concert!"

A couple of extended medleys kicked off proceedings properly, which is presumably the only way that Bacharach could cram his extensive back catalogue into one evening's entertainment. Walk On By, This Guy's In Love With You, 24 Hours From Tulsa, Always Something There To Remind Me, I'll Never Fall In Love Again and Do You Know The Way To San Jose?... all of these and more were fired out within barely 15 minutes, leaving you puzzled as to what exactly could follow it.

The answer was "plenty". The singers handled lead vocal duties throughout and, while both women acquitted themselves well, their male colleague possessed of a fist-clenching sincerity Michael Bolton would be proud of. And, even though the band was good, there was something a bit Sunday Night At The Palladium about proceedings which did tend to swamp Bacharach's genius somewhat.

Once he took centre stage to reminisce over his career, though - unselfconsciously treating us to his first four hit songs (including a kitsch Beware Of The Blob from Steve McQueen's debut picture) - things seemed much more intimate.

Following that up with the likes of Close To You, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, Windows Of The World and many, many more, and parents and children alike were reaffirming their idea that this man is a bit special.

As for his much-maligned singing voice, it all made perfect sense when - during a solo reading of Alfie - the otherwise healthy-looking Bacharach sounded like a man on his last legs, his vocal chords cracking at the high notes, and his voice tinged with joy and regret.

It's the most touching thing I've ever heard. But it won't be the last time someone says that about one of Burt's songs.