It began with Elvis Costello whispering the Shirelles' sha la la la la number "Baby It's You" from the wings and ended in standing ovations. But the real stars of last night's show were the songs that one associates with Burt Bacharach's so-called heyday, when everything that he and lyricist Hal David touched turned to chart gold.
Painted From Memory, the recent collaboration between the dinner-jacketed Elvis and the grey-suited eminence of Bacharach is musically plush and lyrically adroit, yet nothing really beats the golden age of snappy easy listening that the 70-year-old pop composer from Kansas City turned into an enduring soundtrack to the lives of millions.
Still, the audience at the Festival Hall were in tune with the pair's current album and soon turned the concert into a Burt and Costello love-in. They were instantly rewarded with lush arrangements and evocative tunes like "This House Is Empty Now" and the gritty "What's Her Name Today?," Costello holding his own in the ballad stakes by virtue of concentration and intensity rather than any real lightness of touch.
Burt Bacharach's songs benefit from having a woman sing them so Elvis was duty bound to display his feminine side while never being able to live up to the phrasing of Dionne Warwick, Dusty Springfield and Jackie DeShannon. Not that many people could. Hence the audible sigh of orgasmic pleasure once Bacharach was left with the strings, bands and backing singers to take a trip into the celluloid patchwork quilt of "The Look Of Love," "I Say A Little Prayer" and "Walk On By."
Burt's vocal is a tremulous affair these days but his girls didn't let him down. Unfortunately the lad let loose on "What's New Pussycat," "This Guy's In Love With You" and "24 Hours From Tulsa" seemed to be a trainee from the Ronan Keating school, which may have been why Costello came back to deliver a fragment of "Tulsa" like a subtle reproach.
He may have been happiest returning to "Accidents Will Happen" and "Veronica," with his Attractions pal Steve Nieve providing the piano shards, but there was no doubting the mutual rapport between master and pupil during a version of "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself," complete with blissful flugelhorn outro. Trinkets like this are never going to tarnish in the treasure chest of pop.