Burt Bacharach gets the obvious out of the way in the first sentence of this concert tribute: “I find it amazing that this is going down and I’m still alive.” The surprising career resuscitation the composer is undergoing — seemingly everyone has been in the closet about his work for two decades — gets yet another boost with this pleasant re-creation of some of his most familiar numbers.
Nothing here, shot with full orchestra at Gotham’s Hammerstein Ballroom, is going to shock, startle or offend. It’s a defense of his melodies, showing how they can stand up in the hands of Britain’s latest fab femmes, All Saints, and in a bit of off-kilter mincing by one of his greatest exponents, Dionne Warwick. All Saints do reasonably well bouncing through “Always Something There to Remind Me”; Warwick is refreshingly stoic in a syncopated delivery of “Walk on By” before more closely following the original paths of “Do You Know the Way to San Jose” and “I Say a Little Prayer.”
Orchestrations are all by the book, or more specifically by the best-known arrangement. Perfs by the rock types (a dolled-up Sheryl Crow, Chrissie Hynde) are dry to the point of being brittle. Most of the material is culled from Bacharach’s peak in the ’60s and early ’70s when he was working with lyricist Hal David; highlights are Ben Folds Five romping with abandon through “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head,” Mike Myers lending some cute theatricality to “What’s New Pussycat” and Wynonna’s full-bodied reading of “Anyone Who Had a Heart.”
Bacharach guides the evening with a combination of awe and humility, though he only appears to establish a rapport with Warwick and his current collaborator , Elvis Costello. There’s no mention of collaborator David, and indeed little reference is made to the lyrics.
Review tape did not include studio segments featuring Costello and Bacharach at work on an album due this summer. Costello performs “God Give Me Strength,” their Grammy-nominated tune from the pic “Grace of My Heart,” and unveils a similar-sounding and equally earnest number, “This House is Empty Now.” Alone, Bacharach performs “Alfie,” and it’s clear that even at age 67, he still has a relaxed manner in his phrasing that few have ever done as well.
Show is the first in TNT’s “Master Series,” which spotlights “acknowledged masters in their fields” and will include sports and entertainment figures.