Burt Bacharach and Joss Stone: Eventim Apollo, London

“THE QUESTION I always get asked is, ‘Why are you still doing this?'” The answer for Burt Bacharach, 91, is love, sweet love. “It makes me happy and it makes other people happy.”

Everyone inside the Apollo last night would certainly agree with that sentiment, as would millions of others around the world who have enjoyed the magic moments of his 70-year career.

Accompanying the legendary US songwriter in this greatest-hits show was Joss Stone. While in many ways a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the 32-year-old soul singer, it’s also a daunting task. How on earth are you meant to do justice to songs made famous by the likes of Dionne Warwick, Aretha Franklin and Dusty Springfield?

There were times when Stone shone. Franklin would surely have approved of her earth-shaking rendition of ‘I Say A Little Prayer’. ‘The Look of Love’ — which Bacharach confessed to having written for actress Ursula Andress rather than his then wife Angie Dickinson — was soulful and sultry, with Stone backed only by bossa nova guitar.

Equally, there’s a delicacy to songs such as ‘Walk On By’ and ‘(They Long To Be) Close To You’ which require a vocal subtlety that Stone lacks. Tellingly, the first standing ovation of the evening came not for Stone but for backing singer Donna Taylor’s slow-building version of ‘Anyone Who Had a Heart’.

Though rarely explicitly political in song, Bacharach took the opportunity to make his feelings known about US President Donald Trump. “I hate what’s happened to our country,” he said. “And I hate what [Trump] has done to England, our ally.”

It’s testimony to the magic of Bacharach’s music that for the two hours he was on stage, all such worries seemed to fade and everything was, briefly, right with the world.

© Rick PearsonThe Evening Standard, 18 July 2019

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