It seemed that every three-wheel rickshaw of the Britomart Bikemen was piping the songs of Burt Bacharach on the way to the Vector Arena for what must be the 87-year-old songwriter's last visit Downunder.

The format hadn't changed much since his first 2007 concert and, once again, a usually forbidding space was overlooked in what became an unforgettable night in the music lounge of your dreams.

Bacharach's elegant tunes streamed out for well over two hours, after a rousing What the World Needs Now is Love had reminded us that what is really in short supply today is the good old-fashioned songcraft that this man represents.

Eight years ago, Bacharach, at his Steinway, seemed self-effacing; tonight he came across as more frail, his face lighting up at a quicksilver switch of harmony or a nifty keyboard styling; or when one his singers sent a billowing line heavenwards.


The three vocalists - Donna Taylor, Josie James and John Pagano - were the same smooth trio featured in 2007.

You can't help but admire Pagano twisting his way through the perilous tangle of What's New Pussycat?, James bringing a new emotional charge to Anyone Who Had a Heart or Taylor's staunch and soulful Walk On By, all with the superb support of the Auckland Philharmonia Orchestra, singled out by the master for particular praise.

There would be surprises before Bacharach finally signed off with the customary sing-along to Raindrops Keep Falling on my Head. The old Drifters hit, Mexican Divorce, was set in its context and an early Dionne Warwick beauty, In Between the Heartaches, was offered as a personal favourite only recently revisited, deliciously sung by James.

Bacharach's own vocalising at the keyboard was more fragile than ever, lending a new poignancy to The Look of Love and Alfie. Touchingly, his band of singers seemed ever ready to lend a helping vocal.

Heart-in-mouth moments were many, none so moving as the penultimate song, in which he sang "The day will come when I will have to leave you."

This may be inevitable, but the world will have so many wonderful songs to remember him by.