RPO plays The Music of Burt Bacharach
Cadogan Hall, London
14th February 2016
Could there be a finer way to spend Valentine’s day than listening to some of the best love songs ever penned ? Louder Than War’s Craig Chaligne reviews an evening of Burt Bacharach songs played by The Royal Philarmonic Orchestra and a quartet of talented vocalists.
This evening is fast becoming a tradition and the Cadogan Hall’s perfect acoustics and comfy surroundings are the best environment to enjoy it. The RPO conducted by David Firman and accompanied by four excellent vocalists: Mary Carewe, Alison Jiear, Sarah Lark and Graham Bickley who also acts as MC for most of the performance, peppering the set with humourous asides and stories about the songs, played a selection of the best songs from the celebrated American musician’s songbook. Of course as the concert takes place on Valentine’s day, there is quite a big emphasis on love songs and ones with a happy ending (which means that we don’t get my favourite Bacharach and David track “Odds and Ends”). After an instrumental medley, the four singers join the orchestra and the first track is “Magic Moments” sung by Graham Bickley. The breezy “Do You Know The Way To San Jose” was the first of many songs the duo wrote for Dionne Warwick. Graham recalled how the following number “Don’t Make Me Over” was rumoured to have been inspired by a comment Warwick made after learning her take on a song was only for the demo purposes. “Wives and Lovers”, a hit for Jack Jones in 1964 saw the song stripped from its set of dated misogynistic lyrics and turned into a rather wonderful instrumental. We were then treated to a a succession of hits (or an rather an “orgy” as Graham put it at the start of the gig) : “Trains and Boats and Planes”, “Always Something There To Remind Me”, “Walk On By”, “Close To You”. The performance then moved to Bacharach movie scores with “What’s New Pussycat” from the comic caper of the same name and two tracks from “Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid” : “South American Getaway” where the four vocalist harmonized seamlessly and “Raindrop Keep Fallin On My Head”. “I Say a Little Prayer” closed the first set.
If the first half closed on Bacharach cinematic’s career, the second one started with two songs from his musical “Promises, Promises” that opened on Broadway in 1968 : the title track sung by Graham and “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” by Mary Carewe. Sarah Lark took the lead on “Wishin and Hopin'” and was followed by Alison Jiear’s impassioned take on one of the masterpieces of the Bacharach-David songbook “A House is Not a Home”.
“24 Hours From Tulsa” was followed by instrumental “Casino Royale” from the 1967 flop of the same name starring David Niven as James Bond. Another great series of songs followed: “I Just Don’t Know What To Do With Myself”, “The Look Of Love”, “This Girl’s In Love With You”, “Make It Easy On Yourself”, “What The World Needs Now Is Love” and “Alfie”. Only two songs from Bacharach’s post seventies career were included, “Arthur (The Best You Can Do)”, and “That’s What Friends Are For”. A sing-a-long version of “I Say A Little Prayer” finished off a splendid performance.