Thursday 22 March 2018


ed power

barry gibb

the 02

Long derided as the high watermark of 70s naff, the Bee Gees' legacy has undergone a slow, steady rehabilitation to the point where it is nowadays possible to proclaim the Gibb brothers disco's foremost visionaries in polite company, confident nobody will scoff.

But there was always more to the English-Australian siblings than cloud scraping falsettos, gratuitous chest hair and guitars set to 'funky': they wrote 'Chain Reaction' for Diana Ross and 'Islands in the Stream' for Dolly Parton and, in their pre Saturday Night Fever incarnation, were sumptuous balladeers.

On stage for the first time since the death last year of brother Robin, Barry Gibb's retrospective tour is obviously a hugely emotional undertaking (third Bee Gee, Maurice, passed away in 2003).

He is unquestionably determined to make it a family affair, having apparently brought half the extended Gibb clan on the road.

Growling behind a ZZ Top style beard, son Steven is a gruff rocker who might have got lost in the way to a Mastodon audition; Maurice's daughter Sammi contributes backing vocals and delivers an affecting lead turn on 'Chain Reaction'.

While dedicated to the memories and achievements of the Bee Gees, the concert isn't quite the greatest hits spectacle fans may have anticipated. Opening with the sublimely ridiculous 'Jive Talkin', early on Gibb creates the impression that the evening is going to be a sequin-studded victory lap. However, he's soon stepping into murkier territory: the pastoral 'With the Sun in my Eyes' has a Mumford and Sons lilt; the ominous intro to 'Every Christian Lion Hearted Man will Show you' could have soundtracked the orgy scene from Eyes Wide Shut.

Gibb looks every one of his 67 years and lacks the unsettling sprightliness of other sexagenarian rock icons. Spending chunks of the gig seated as the offspring take over, he certainly can't be accused of age inappropriate mugging in the Mick Jagger vein. There's a scripted feel to his patter too, though he spins a good anecdote, recalling, for instance, that the brothers wrote Spicks and Specks after running around naked in Wagga Wagga in Australia.

Following what feel like endless detours, we are eventually ushered into disco Nirvana, with a giant mirror ball descending and Gibb plunging first into 'Stayin' Alive', then a delicious, delirious mash-up of 'Night Fever' and 'More than a Woman'. Glimpses of the Bee Gees' dance-floor genius are only on intermittent display – but when they are, the effect is absolutely electric.

Irish Independent

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