Anyone who has ever loved, couldn't walk on by Burt Bacharach in concert

Genius: Burt Bacharach

Genius: Burt Bacharach

First published in Music
Last updated

Birds suddenly appeared and stars fell down from the sky when Burt Bacharach performed in Birmingham last night, writes Steve Zacharanda.

It was a dream come true. And I was close to him.

The 86-year-old oozes the class that so many of his contemporaries have but successors seem to lack.

He said it was his first time in Birmingham and complimented my city for its architecture and feel, saying it made an impression on him.

Describing the Symphony Hall as great was on the money too, the venue is truly special when graced by a great.

He explained he was starting the concert with a medley of songs he did with Hal David, whose tail stinging lyrics complimented Burt's compositions so perfectly.

Idiotically, as his band ran through Say a Little Prayer, Walk on By, This Guy's in Love and and Trains and Boats and Planes I thought "Burt must have a lot in his locker to be playing these so early."

Well, of course he has, he could play a 24-hour concert and still not finish the songs he has given us over the decades.

Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield, Scott Walker, Cilla Black (who perfectionist Burt made record Alfie 32 times before he was happy), Aretha Franklin, Tom Jones, Gene Pitney, Herb Albert and many more had their careers boosted by Burt's songs, if not defined.

And it says how good his band is that even though we have all heard the more famous recorded versions of the songs they were not burdened by the history they were recreating.

The three singers Donna Taylor, John Pagano and Josie James hit the right notes and I'd happily sit through a solo concert by any them.

Thomas Ehlen on horns and Dennis Wilson on woodwind took centre stage for the love theme from that matchless of films Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid.

Not many people have made the trumpet sound better than Bacharach, he helped cement the horn family into popular music and only Last Post pulls at the heart strings more than a Burt arranged horn solo.

Spritely and charismatic the great man had the audience waiting on every word as he described his stint with Marlene Dietrich and struggling in the hit factory the Brill Building.

He happily admitted his early songs were not his best but played Magic Moments regardless.

His music is a soundtrack to so many lives, mine included.

As so many lyrics in his songs remind me of past glories a smorgasbord of ex-girlfriends' smiles danced across my mind as perfectly sang words triggered my happiest and saddest memories.

With a beaming smile I thought anyone who has ever loved, could look at me and know that I love Burt.

He is believed to have joked: "I make four types of songs, I love you, I hate you, I want you back and f*** off."

The human condition cannot always be boiled down to such simplicity but his songs though simple are breathtakingly brilliant in a myriad of ways.

Even if he had only wrote three songs - The Look of Love, You Don't Have To Say You Love Me, Always Something There To Remind Me - he still would be one of the best songwriters to walk the planet but he has done so much more.

His medley of film scores and songs included classics like his 80s comeback hit Arthurs Theme, What's New Pussycat, and of course Raindrops Are Falling on My Head, which he finished a memorable encore with, encouraging a sing a long by an adoring audience.

Seeing his fingers dance over the ivories was a joy, he put his whole body into bashing those keys. And a rendition of one of his latest compositions Hush showed he still is capable of creating new music of note.

We, of course, wanted to hear him sing.

His raspy voice betrayed the years as it naturally should, but the feeling he put into Alfie and Wives and Lovers meant it was a special moment despite its weakness.

But you don't go to see Burt Bacharach sing, just like people all those centuries ago did not go to see Mozart to see him play the piano, their vision of how music can sound and touch souls is their genius.

And seeing Burt arranging a set is as close as I'll ever get to see Mozart, he is that good, a titan in music. A man who has brought more joy than the sun on an English summer's day.

His band hung on every hand movement and seeing a maestro at work was really one of those "I was there" moments.

He is one of modern culture's greats.

A man who has continually captured the greatest feeling in the world (besides getting a royalty cheque like he must) to fall in love.

The euphoria, joy, giddiness and fear are all within his greatest works as of course is the desperation, pain and humiliation when love walks out the door.

He picked lyricists to complement his melodies and provided the music for a million sing-a-longs which must have worn many a karaoke machine out.

His concert was the perfect antidote after spending three days visiting the killing fields of the Western Front in France and Belgium.

Perhaps when aliens come to the earth's door and debate whether to wipe our species out, a species which continues to kill and maim one another and murder each other's children, they will hear Burt Bacharach and decide to leave us alone.

Because as this remarkable man has shown through his music - humans are capable of beauty beyond belief.

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