Gig review: Burt Bacharach, Edinburgh

Burt Bacharach. Picture: PA
Burt Bacharach. Picture: PA
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THAT the term ‘legend’ gets bandied around too easily these days is only a cliché because it’s true. But when it comes to Burt Bacharach, whose career spans over 50 years and includes more instantly recognisable songs than would be practical to list here, it’s a description that is wholly justified.

Usher Hall * * * *

So it was something of an honour that the great man – now a mere 85-years-young – graced us with his presence at the Usher Hall on Saturday.

After an instrumental septet and his regular trio of singers – Josie James, Donna Taylor and John Pagano – had taken their places on stage, the silver fox himself shuffled on, decked out in an open-neck shirt and blazer worn with jeans and trainers.

Predictably, the crowd gave him a rapturous welcome and Bacharach took a lengthy pause to lap up the acclaim before settling down at his Steinway.

The concert mostly followed a medley format – in turn each of the three singers leaving their stool to perform a song in full.

Halfway through a half-century of hits – Walk On By, I Say A Little Prayer, Do You Know The Way To San Jose?, I’ll Never Fall In Love Again, What The World Needs Now Is Love, etc – the Missourian recalled his very first visit to “Edinboro”.

Back when he was a struggling songwriter, he visited the Capital as the musical arranger for Marlene Dietrich.

It was during the 1964 Edinburgh Festival and Bacharach said the songs he was writing at that time were “awful” but at least it allowed him to “see the world”.

His own vocal efforts on the night were confined to just a handful of songs, presumably chosen to fit his fragile, croak of a voice. No matter, the extraordinary James, Taylor and Pagano were a joy to listen to.

During the two-hour set, Bacharach threw in a rendition of the kitschy theme song from Steve McQueen’s big-screen debut, The Blob.

“Steve’s career managed to survive it,” laughed Bacharach. “So did mine.” Not half.

After several standing ovations, and a sing-along encore of Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head, the crowd left the venue in no doubt they had spent an evening in the company of a true musical genius.