Swaying, hand-in-hand, to the heartache of Make It Easy On Yourself, a twosome at Glasgow’s Kelvingrove Bandstand take full advantage of having one of the world’s extraordinary composers playing piano in the July dusk. Now in his twilight years, Burt Bacharach’s repartee with the crowd is second to none, posing for photographs, bantering with stewards, thanking every member of staff involved in tonight’s production, and wisecracking political opinions which only endear him more to tonight’s audience as the show moves on.
Accompanied by a seven-piece band and three backing singers, the lush harmonies coalesce with the instruments to a point where human voice and implement are indistinguishable. Late writing partner Hal David’s lyrics and Bacharach’s music compositions swiftly set the mood on opener What The World Needs Now, noticeably affecting the Friday night audience.
Standing ovation after standing ovation, Bacharach and his band lob grenades during the first seven-song medley of the night which includes Dionne Warwick classics Walk On By, Say A Little Prayer, (There’s) Always Something There To Remind Me, giving each of the black-uniformed backing singers their moment in the spotlight; with the cornerstone beam of light always trained on centre stage where Bacharach positively radiates. Even a pardoned belch before Anyone Who Had A Heart fails to break the spell cast on the crowd. It is an astonishing start to what will become a memorable night.
Between songs, the 91 year old drops names of the musicians and bands these songs were written for: Elvis Costello (This House Is Empty Now), The Drifters (Mexican Divorce), Manfred Mann/Love (My Little Red Book – “my one attempt to write a rock n’ roll song”), Aretha Franklin (Falling Out Of Love). Each name-drop is heralded with applause and fondness, and a genuine bond between artist and audience. These are more than memories – some of these songs are by people no longer with us who soundtracked the most special days of our lives. Even the difficult ones.
This is not to say that Bacharach is all soppy sentimentality. A genuine edge and intelligence in both the writing and music exudes from his partnership with Hal David, but tonight political opinions are being shared. Anti-gun violence song Live To See Another Day, written with Rudy Perez, is described as “a statement you have to make for your own conscience”, while the US President is regarded as “alienating people and making enemies with our friends – I’ve no use for little Donny”. It feels like Bacharach has tapped into the Scottish social conscience, articulating it beautifully in that drawling, American accent.
A second five-song romantic medley which includes I’ll Never Fall In Love Again and On My Own precedes a truly monster hit in the shape of Close To You – with a seagull timeously soaring over the bandstand as favoured backing singer Donna Taylor warmly delivers the opening lyric “Why do birds suddenly appear”.
Bacharach exclaims that motion pictures have been kind to him and performs an eleven-song medley of some of the compositions he has created. This point truly takes the breath away as the band submerge the open-air concert with The Look Of Love, Arthur’s Theme (Best That You Can Do), What’s New Pussycat?, Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head and the Cilla Black favourite, Alfie. “We love you, Burt” shouts one girl from the crowd. She isn’t wrong.
Best ‘til last they say, as Bacharach provides his own fragile, croaky but perfectly-seasoned vocals on 1964 hit A House Is Not A Home, and then an encore reprise of Raindrops… which has the audience on its feet, heartsore and entirely content. In little over two hours, Bacharach and his band have delivered 35 songs and had it not been for the medleys, we’d still be sitting there – “wishin’ and hopin’ and thinkin’ and prayin’, plannin’ and dreamin’ each night of his charms”, and subsequently changing the name of The Wee Review forevermore.