His songwriting partner Hal David died last year, and the finest singer of his songs, Dionne Warwick, recently declared bankruptcy. Despite this it’s a gala year for Burt Bacharach, who at 85 is marking the release of his autobiography and a new hits collection with two rare London shows.
The sight of music’s suavest songwriter shuffling on in trainers was the first shock. It was indicative of a perceptible cheapening of the music — synthesised strings on songs that merit an orchestra, and three blandly competent singers who couldn’t come close to the original interpreters.
One thing that can’t be argued with is the quality of the songs. His quandry was whether to do justice to some, as he did with a dramatic Anyone Who Had a Heart, or race through the lot in medley form. Mostly he plumped for the latter. Is one verse and two choruses of your favourite better than nothing at all? Possibly not.
The most affecting moments came when Bacharach himself delivered quiet takes on Alfie and A House is Not a Home — cracked and imperfect but loaded with the history of an extraordinary career. The great man had earned his time centre stage.
July 7, Royal Festival Hall, SE1 (0844 875 0073, southbankcentre.co.uk)