There are some opportunities in life that are simply not to be missed. As soon as I discovered that Burt Bacharach was returning to Britain to appear in concert with Joss Stone, I knew I had to grab a ticket. The great man is 91 years old now and even if I managed to get to that age with faculties intact, I'm sure I wouldn't be contemplating two hours non-stop in concert. But that's exactly the treat that was in store for last night's audience at the Eventim Apollo in Hammersmith.
It's often struck me that Bacharach has something in common with Agatha Christie. Both were great innovators with the gift of taking a form of popular culture and reinventing it in a unique way. Both have enjoyed phenomenal and lasting success (Bacharach's first two number one hits are now more than 60 years old). Both have had their work sneered at and dismissed as uncool,. And both are now recognised, perhaps more widely than ever before, as having achieved something very special in a hugely competitive field, with a body of work that continues to exert global appeal.
Burt Bacharach was in fantastic form last night. As well as many of the famous songs, we heard newish ones (last year's anti-Donald Trump song With a Voice and this year's anti-gun violence song Live To See Another Day) and less familiar ones such as Falling Out of Love, a terrific song which was a minor hit for Aretha Franklin, and the film song Something Big. Joss Stone's best contributions were also relatively unfamiliar songs, In Between the Heartaches and Are You There With Another Girl? She's no Dionne Warwick, but she did a good job.
It was a feelgood occasion, even though the venue was markedly inferior to the Royal Festival Hall (different tickets had different start times for the concert, and the staff didn't seem to know much about the timings). I was delighted to meet up with a group of Italian fans who had come over to London specially for the concert. They included my good friends Davide Bonori and Roberto Pinardi, and it was amazing to recall that we've been sharing rare Bacharach tracks for upwards of twenty years now. As he often does these days, Burt introduced his young son Oliver, who performed on the keyboards for a couple of numbers. His band and the background singers were excellent, as always. One reviewer preferred the three singers to Joss Stone, whereas another took the opposite line, and allowed one or two of the old cliches about this kind of music to slip into an otherwise reasonable assessment. For the fans, it was an utterly memorable occasion. Whether we'll see Burt Bacharach on these shores again, I don't know, but he fully deserved the ecstatic standing ovation he received at the end of a wonderful night.