Nordoff-Robbins Music Therapy is rightly revered as a source of inspiration to autistic and otherwise disabled children, but as part of its 25th anniversary on Friday, the charity raised further funds while providing another kind of public service. Tribute concerts often take place to a camouflaged backdrop of commercial motivation, but good causes have rarely sounded as good or been served as elegantly as at this gala celebration of two cornerstones of the popular song, the composer Burt Bacharach and the lyricist Hal David.
Such tribute occasions customarily provide a handful of relevant luminaries and a boot-sale of extras, but with one or two mildly windy hiccups, this one exuded both relevance and dignity. Setting it on a London stage was also entirely apposite, since both writers have acknowledged the important role played by British artists and audiences in broadening their appeal, as their tunes were amplified by Tom Jones, Sandie Shaw, Dusty Springfield and others.
A bill featuring Kenny Lynch, Sacha Distel, Linda Lewis and Edwin Starr might sound as though it belongs at the Palladium or on a where-are-they-now package tour, but each contributed to the momentum of the testimonial, as did Lucie Silvas, Lynden David Hall, Paul Carrack and the remarkably composed newcomer Sumudu Jayatilaka. Petula Clark closed the first half with an initially cautious but ultimately victorious presentation that included "Close To You" and one of David's most handsomely expressive lyrics, "A House Is Not A Home."
After the interval it fell to Bacharach's most recent collaborator, Elvis Costello, to introduce him and use his piano accompaniment for "I Just Don't Know What To Do With Myself." Finally Bacharach and David's keynote interpreter Dionne Warwick emerged, going some way to redeeming a lacklustre performance at Hammersmith two nights earlier, and it was time to say a little prayer for the creators of a catalogue that only grows more mighty as contemporary songwriting values grow more slovenly.