BARRY GIBB: “Mythology”
LG Arena, NEC, Saturday 21st September, 2013
I don’t usually review concerts on this blog but in this case I make an exception.
You don’t have to be a Bee Gees fan to recognise the song writing mega-talent of the eldest (and surviving) Gibb brother, Barry. Together with brothers Robin and Maurice, he is responsible for some of the catchiest pop music of the last five decades.
But who isn’t a Bee Gees fan to some degree? I’m a lifelong obsessive so I relished the chance to see the last surviving member of the band performing live.
The show begins with a video clip: Gibb sings Technicolor Dreams, a bouncy little song about the silver screen that sets the tone. Tonight is going to be about nostalgia, to be sure, but there is also going to be warmth and humour.
The great man himself strides on in black, not so much a silver fox as a platinum lion. The mane is still there, as are the beard and the teeth. The video screens show us in massive close-up: Barry Gibb still has a twinkle in his eye. He opens with Jive Talkin’ and Lonely Days. You Should Be Dancing gets us on our feet. Already in these three numbers, we realise the distinctive voice is still there in all its range and beauty. Gibb can still belt, can still pull off the breathy whisper, and the sweet, searing falsetto has lost none of its power.
The other brothers’ absence is felt, but they are also present, in the slide shows and the reminiscences but mostly of course in the legacy of their music. Gibb launches into I Started a Joke only for video footage of late brother Robin to take over in the second verse. We all stand up, in celebration and tribute. There is a lot of love in the room.
The back catalogue is outstanding. There is no way Gibb can cover everything but most of the biggest numbers are here: the Saturday Night Fever classics especially, interspersed with some older, less well-known songs. Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You is a moment of weirdness with Gibb’s eldest son Stephen, a mountain man with a biker beard, intoning the Latin incantation that heralds each verse. With The Sun In My Eyes is a tone poem, a beautiful ballad with one of my favourite Gibb lyrics ever, “Who is the clown that walks in the steps of my shadow?”
Maurice’s daughter Sammy joins her uncle to duet on How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? – she also has a solo spot for the Diana Ross smash Chain Reaction. One of the three backing vocalists, BethCohen steps forward to duet on the Streisand hit Guilty, and to take centre stage for one of that diva’s biggest ever hits, Woman In Love.
If pressed to pick a highlight (impossible!) it’s when Gibb duets with his son for I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You. Gibb junior has a rich, rough rock voice, complementing the smoother and softer stylings of Gibb senior– The song is an example of the brothers’ storytelling abilities. Other numbers highlight an impressionistic approach to lyrics, but above all it’s the melodies that hook you in, perfect pop refrains, time and time again. It’s not only words that take your heart away; it’s the tunes as well.
The show ends with Words, dedicated to Linda, Gibb’s wife of 43 years. It is a celebration of their life together and their growing family: five kids and eight grandkids (so far), and a look to the future, after all the losses this musical dynasty has sustained.
For two and a half hours I am transported. Memories of my own are summoned – Gibb truly has provided a soundtrack for my life. Judging by the energy and quality of his performance, Gibb (now in his late 60s) looks and sounds like he’s got many more years in him yet (jokes about erectile dysfunction aside!). I really hope so.
As Gibb points out in Immortality, with images of all his brothers (Andy included) and his parents on the screen behind him, ‘we don’t say goodbye.’ The lost Gibbs live on as long as the songs continue to be played.
You can check out what else is on at the LG Arena here.