Burt Bacharach

Live shot

Phases & Stages
Photo by Mary Sledd

Burt Bacharach

Paramount Theatre, Oct. 4

In 2006, an audience with Burt Bacharach is as much a chance to pay homage as to see him perform. Who wouldn't relish the opportunity to sing along with "Raindrops Keep Fallin' on My Head" in the same room with the man who wrote it? Opening with "What the World Needs Now Is Love," the 78-year-old songwriter could've filled a jukebox with all the now-ubiquitous comfort-food melodies he ran through during the two-hour show. The sheer volume of his hits demanded a medley approach that touched on everything from 1962's "Don't Make Me Over," his first single with Dionne Warwick, to last year's Grammy-winning album, At This Time. Having written for many singers of various ranges, Bacharach's presentation of his remarkable catalog proved the show's sticky wicket. While he parlayed his self-admittedly limited vocal ability into a remarkably emotive reading of "Alfie," his three vocalists weren't up to the task of covering Warwick, Aretha Franklin, Dusty Springfield, and Tom Jones. John Pagano's unctuous readings of "What's New Pussycat?" and the Elton John parts of "That's What Friends Are For" were precisely the type of technique-over-soul expressions that made "easy listening" a term of derision. Bacharach's other two vocalists, Donna Taylor and Josie James, didn't make much of a mark on the Warwick canon, but at least they didn't get in the way of the songs. Bacharach devoted the concert's midsection to At This Time, drafting Pagano to stand in for Elvis Costello on "Who Are These People?" For all the ballyhoo over Bacharach's jab at the Bush administration, the song just lies there. The instrumental title track fared better, saying much more with its forlorn melody than the lyrics of the former. Another medley toward show's end, this time dedicated to Bacharach's film work, proved another highlight, particularly a snippet of "Arthur's Theme (Best That You Can Do)." Even though this concert was a mixed bag, Bacharach's generation-spanning catalog was more than enough to draw multiple standing ovations that few music lovers would dispute.

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