An Evening With Bacharach
Pop Format-Artistry Gets to Be Repetitious
COMPOSER BURT Bacharach, pop-music’s fiscal phenomenon, confirmed in his Cow Palace concert hast night that nothing succeeds like success and that the highest form of flattery is imitation.
In Bacharach’s case, of course, the flattery is egocentric.
After an hour of Bacharach conducting a huge (and rather good) orchestra and a quartet of singers, occasionally playing the piano and singing himself, in a program consisting entirely of his own songs, one becomes uncomfortably aware of the format-artistry that Bacharach practices.
So many of the melodies, so much of the orchestration, and such a large amount of the changes fall into similar or overlapping patterns that by the set’s conclusion every number begins to sound like a medley of the others.
Bacharach looks a good deal like a shortish Elliot Gould. He admits to singing poorly and confirms the judgment. His entracte comments are much too long, irrelevant, and often embarrassingly self-satisfied.
The program included what you’d expect — ‘Alfie’, ‘Close to You’, ‘Never Fall in Love Again’, ‘Raindrops Keep Falling’, ‘San Jose’, etc.
Bacharach conducts from a half-standing position, his legs widespread across a concert piano bench, hands moving from electric and acoustic keyboards into frequently meaningless gestures.
Arms waving, head thrown back, eyes closed, nostrils dilated, Bacharach is quite a sight — and sound.
All of Bacharach’s tunes have lyrics by Hal David… most of them last night were sung by two blond and two black young ladies in the oooh-waah, weeow-eeoo style of Hollywood studios.
It was interesting to note that Bacharach directs the vocalists to sing in a manner and with inflections identical to those used by Dionne Warwick, the Bacharach-David team’s favorite interpreter of their material.
Did they guide Miss Warwick’s stylings in the first place, or has she influenced Bacharach’s conducted interpretations?
Bacharach’s presentation lasted about an hour, ending with ‘What the World Needs Now is Love’, followed, perhaps significantly, by ‘Promises, Promises’.
The program began, and nearly ground to a dead stop, with a set of aging top-40 type tunes performed by a lounge act style soft-rock sextet (in tuxes with yellow shirts and big blow ties — dig?) called Orange Colored Sky.
The crowd, about 6000 in all, sat in a state of patient boredom through their seemingly endless presentation.
The now completely refurbished Cow Palace had perfect sound amplification (by Harry McCune) and intelligent lighting.
© Philip Elwood, The San Francisco Examiner, 24 July 1971