Burt Bacharach, small, grey-haired and tanned, walks slightly unsteadily on to the floating stage, belying his 85 years. He appears genuinely overwhelmed by the magnificence of a perfect Henley Festival evening on the banks of the Thames.
“You folks really know how to do it up,” he quips from his seat at the Steinway, which he caresses in that laid-back manner of so many accomplished jazz keyboard players, a sleepy style that masks harmonic complexity and compositional authority.
He was to take us on a journey through a lifetime’s repertoire, starting with a medley of songs with lyrics by his long-term song-writing partner, Hal David, and progressing chronologically to his more recent output. The songs were endless and nostalgically familiar: Anyone Who Had a Heart (Dionne Warwick), I Say A Little Prayer, Magic Moments, My Little Red Book, On My Own and They Long To Be Close To You. Most were performed by a polished tour vocal team of Donna Taylor, Josie James and John Pagano, accompanied by an entourage of consummate session musicians on sax, trumpet, keyboard, drums and violin.