This entry is part 2 of 5 in the series Burt Bacharach and Hal David

Dionne Warwick

This Tuesday, May 08, 2012, the celebratory dinner in honor of the Gershwin Prize being presented to Burt Bacharach and Hal David, songwriting team of such classics as, “Say a Little Prayer,”  “Make it Easy on Yourself” “Raindrops Keep Fallin’ on My Head” and many more. That photo on the left is with queen of smooth-voiced vocals, Dionne Warwick, by the way. I was thanking her for the wonderful performance of , “What the World Needs Now,” at the finale of the show that had the whole audience singing along…from Gershwin and Bacharach and David family and friends, to Secretary of Homeland Security Janet Napolitano and Surpreme Court Justice Samuel Alito as well as congressmen and women and Paul Williams, President of ASCAP.

The guests-by-invitation-only celebratory concert prior to the dinner was very enjoyable. Here is my experience:

So Mike Meyers received lots of laughs and much applause when, after being announced a second time himself (for the first number, Arturo Sandoval strode calmly onstage, instrument in hand, following the drumroll and booming voice introducing, “That International Man of Mystery…. Mike Meyers”) he also kept the audience entertained with some impromptu jokes during the pause after Stevie Wonder was announced–the pause seemed to last a couple minutes, during which time Mike continued his stand-up style patter, eventually asking the audience to give him a hand, “Anyone have any questions? Anyone?…” Then, stating the obvious, “You know I’m wearing an Elvis suit. We had these especially sewn in,” (patting the quilted padding stitched in the form of a protruding six-pack that emphasized his uniquely gyrating and humorous Elvis impersonation, complete with a big gold-lettered “Burt” on the buckle).

Stevie’s entrance at this point, after  the second announcement of his name,  was wonderful, not so much continuing the humorous mood Mike created, as just a great feeling to have him finally onstage with his personable way of making the audience at ease…even through what proved to be the last glitch of the evening: his mike needed to be switched out. He patted the new mike, smiled, and launched into song.

Smooth sailing from here on out…stamping feet and standing ovations for at least half of the songs in this evening’s concert!

Rumer (whom I have not seen live before) sang so movingly that I did not notice her eyes were closed–she, only gesturing with delicate waves of her left hand–until the song was half over. It seemed apt, the song being the dreamy, “A House is Not a Home.”

Sheryl Crow

Sheryl Crow made the first reference of the evening to the most well-known vocalist connected to the Bacharach-David songwriting team, confiding, “You know I don’t want to sing this song knowing that Dionne Warwick is anywhere in the building…” before lending her own signature timbre to the refrains of “Walk on By.”

Lyle Lovett sang solo and then got together with Sheryl Crow in a duet of, “I’ll Never Fall in Love Again” Sheryl Crow still in an elegant little black dress, now keeping time with a sort of rock-n- roll knee move (even in the tall shiny black Calvin Klein pumps that seemed to be the standard women’s footwear for the show), both smiling a pseudo-sheepish smile and leaning into the mikes for the great lyrics to come through clearly for all to hear. “Lyle makes me nervous. He’s kinda sexy,” she joked, throwing back her blond hair, before they both began to sing.

 

Context for the event was most clearly laid out by Michael Feinstein, the original assistant-then-archivist to Ira Gershwin, turned Grammy-nominated singer. He is very involved in keeping the American Songbook relevant (The Michael Feinstein Great American Songbook Initiative) and also serves on the Library of Congress’ National Recording Preservation Board. He’s just a very all-around enthusiastic, nice and professional show guy for the ages.
At first I wondered why he was smiling when he said,
“Ira really loved the Bacharach-David songwriting team.”
Then I realized it was a generational thing…
“He said, ‘They’re very nice kids,'” explained Michael,
“He thought of them as a couple of talented kids.”
Then Michael Feinstein sang, “Why Do Birds Suddenly Appear” with just the right amount of earnestness and not-quite ironic shmaltz to suit the romantic movie-soundtrack standard it has become.
Diana Krall, of course, gave a flawlessly jazzy performance of “Look of Love” in her throaty contralto. She’s also so nice! Actually so is Sheryl Crow, and Lyle Lovett, and Burt Bacharach… How did I get to meet them all. I feel so lucky!
Shelea

Oh, and I can’t forget the most surprising hit of the evening: Shelea is a young woman who I had never heard of, and when I researched her on the internet later, it turned out that she definitely has been by Stevie Wonder’s side this past year or so in many performances. But, wow, what a voice!

She is both young and elegant in her white floor-length flowing gown, like a greek-godess, trailing grace and glory in every step. Her voice reminded me of Whitney Houston, in that it is clean, but her manner is more soulful and modern as Alicia Keys (one of my favorites). Hopefully we will have a chance to work on some projects together. I couldn’t even raise my hands to clap for about thirty seconds after her rendition of, “Anyone Who Ever Had a Heart,” I was in a sort of shock of happiness after hearing her play with Stevie Wonder’s amazing accompaniment that night.

 

Ramone, Gershwin, Marina

 

Dinner was delicious, and then over creme brûlée, as the crowd started to thin, became aquainted with the sons of legendary Phil Ramone, who prodrruced the sound for the evening. It turns out they are into music too, and had been operating equipment under the stage, of all things!

Nice boys (men) and pleasant to meet.

And last, but not least, my actress friend from Moscow Art Theatre, who now resides in New York, Marina. She took most of these photos on our back-up camera (a somewhat antique camera-phone), landing some great shots, and was great company for the evening. Thanks Marina, for your friendship.

 

Marina

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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