12 February 2013
Barry Gibb Mythology
Sydney Entertainment Centre
Friday 8th February 2013
I kept having visions of our seats and being disappointed. The tickets very loudly stated SIDE VIEWING so I was imagining that I would have this huge speaker stack between me and Barry and I’d have to crane my neck just to see the tip of his nose. So I was relieved when our seats had us on the left-hand side looking down onto the stage. I couldn’t make out the Guild logo on Barry’s headstock but was close enough to know we were in for a treat.
I knew the concert was about to start when around thirty to forty people – young and old – came out from behind the stage and took up their seats in front of the stage. Amongst them, Barry’s nephews and nieces. With his elder sister Lesley living in the nearby Blue Mountains I often think about all these Gibb kids running around Sydney and here it was in one backstage–passed conga line to see Uncle Barry.
The lights dim and the first show of Barry Gibb’s Mythology tour starts in the town where it pretty much all began. We get treated to the Technicolour Dreams film clip up on the three big screens and then the band make their way up the stairs leaving Barry waiting with his flowing silver locks (!). I’ve never seen a sixty–six year old swagger before but he saunters on stage like he’s thirty again, picks up his trademark blue guitar and launches into the opening choo–choo of Jive Talkin’. The sound was a mess but after a couple of minutes the technicians had that sorted and, to these ears, there wasn’t a sound problem the whole night (except I couldn’t hear any bass but that was probably due to where we were sitting).
What follows exceeded my expectations. Being Barry Gibb I knew his concert would be incredible but I didn’t expect it to be the best concert I have ever been to. Is it too early, or too late in life, to sprout such accolades?
Second song in and we’re treated to Lonely Days, sounding big and punchy with the crowd clapping along to those drums. To Love Somebody, soulful enough, gets an even earthier arrangement with a slowed down intro and gospel backing vocals. Barry introduces Maurice’s daughter Sam to the stage and they tackle the sublime How Can You Mend A Broken Heart? There’s a surprise when he plays the Peggy Lee hit Fever but all makes sense when it morphs into Stayin’ Alive and back again.
An even bigger surprise is when Barry introduces his son Stephen to sing a tribute to Maurice with an obscure b–side of Mo’s called On Time – one of my favourite Bee Gees songs! As Stephen is obviously a hard–rocker (check shirt, biker beard, lots of tats including HELL on his knuckles) this song suits him to a tee with it’s chunky riff, early '70s canned heat lyrics and man does he nails the solo.
Barry talks about “the bands from the '60s we liked, the Hollies and the Fortunes, bands you would have forgotten…and then there was the Beatles.” The audience cheers. Barry continues, “So I’d like to dedicate this next one to my favourite songwriter of all time…Paul McCartney.” And, with his inimitable strumming, launches into The Long And Winding Road. Too much heaven! Barry does Macca, and how. Sounds like a Bee Gees tune somewhere around Trafalgar.
Not only do we get Gotta Get A Message To You but it’s followed by Kilburn Towers. Would never have picked that one. What a treat! And it’s dedicated to his sister Lesley “who is somewhere out there (in the crowd).”
“It’s great to be back home,” says Barry to the cheer of the crowd. Even though he’ll be saying the same line in Brisbane, Manchester and Miami it doesn’t matter as it was here in Sydney the Bee Gees learnt their chops, recording at the back of a butcher’s shop in suburban Hurstville. “We recorded all these songs with the smell of steak wafting into the studio” he says and, sounding a bit embarrassed, plays a couple of songs from “our Australian records”. I would never have expected to hear Playdown from 1966 but here it is complete with eleven-piece backing band. The big local hit Spicks and Specks gets a roaring reaction with 13,000 Sydneysiders singing along.
The '60s era just keep on giving and Horizontal album track With The Sun In My Eyes sounding majestic in its simplicity as is the next one In the Morning. Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You is another highlight (okay, the whole show was a highlight) with Stephen tackling the ‘Oh solo Dominique’ vocal part looking and sounding like a transfixed tough monk.
The band, consisting of a drummer, percussionist, 5-string bassist, four guitarists (including Barry and Stephen), two keyboardists and three backing vocalists, made some songs loud and punchy and others quiet and melancholic. An exceptional bunch of musicians who reminded me of the backing band behind Brian Wilson when I saw him do Pet Sounds around ten years ago. Anonymous yet young and vital. Conservative – with nothing experimental and leftfield in the playing – those attributes are left to the actual songs. Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You? Out there!
And then we get I Started A Joke. Barry says, “Here’s a special one for the Gibb family” and starts singing the first verse of this classic Robin Gibb tune. Suddenly, Robin’s voice appears LOUD as if coming down from the sky and footage of him singing it appears on the big screens and we’re treated to a living wake with one of the most beautiful voices with a full band backing. When it ends, started by tearful Gibb family in the audience, the entire crowd is up on their feet and giving Robin a standing ovation that goes on for a couple of minutes. This seemed to have surprised Barry who looks completely overwhelmed by this reaction. An experience I will never forget.
Backing singer Beth Cohen comes down and sings Islands In The Stream and Guilty with Barry (“Oh the stories I could tell you about Barbra!” says Barry) and then he dedicates Words to the extended Gibb family. Ever the sentimentalist, “I love you Lynda” in handwriting is projected on the big screen. “Now we’re going to enter into that zone,” he says and the band – with Sam Gibb on lead vocals – launches into If I can’t Have You and a medley of Fever hits. Funny that in the late '70s (and on the live double and box set) the Bee Gees would do a medley of the '60s hits and he is now doing a medley of the '70s hits. Now it’s the other way around.
With photo and video montage behind him of his three brothers, Barry talks about each of them and what they meant to him with the crowd cheering each one. A living wake indeed.
“How on earth is he going to end this concert?” I thought. “What biggie does he have left?” Barry takes the opposite tack and they play one song each from the '80s and '90s with Ordinary Lives (“another one for the Gibb family”) and then ending with Immortality (“the last great song that Robin, Mo and I wrote together”).
Barry says goodbye and swaggers offstage while the band play an elevator version of Massachusetts. Classic! The entire crowd are on their feet again cheering on a man who put out his soul on the stage that night with nearly fifty years worth of songs to chose from. They all come back again for one more and you know which one it’s going to be with that massive mirror ball hanging above the crowd and they do the perfunctory Staying Alive and then it’s over for good. Two incredible hours of Bee Gees Heaven.
We all have songs you wished he’d have played, mine being Run To Me and Mr Natural (oh okay, and Birdie Told Me!) but the one biggie that was missing was New York Mining Disaster 1941. I know he can’t play everything but thought it odd this one was wasn’t on the setlist. The other curiosity to me was there were no amplifiers on the stage. Not that I could see anyway. It has been awhile since I went to a big concert, the last being the Bee Gees One Night Stand at the Olympic Stadium in 1999 and we were so far back I can’t remember what I saw!
I can’t imagine how this Mythology tour would have been done if Robin were still alive or how it would have been billed. Or if they would have attempted to go out at all. Barry and Robin Gibb’s Mythology Tour? Certainly not billed as the Bee Gees. It really was Barry’s tribute to his brothers and the band he formed fifty years ago. It really was a Living Wake.
You Should Be Dancing
First Of May
To Love Somebody
How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?
How Deep Is Your Love
The Long and Winding Road
Gotta Get A Message To You
Spicks and Specks
With The Sun In My Eyes
In The Morning (of my life)
Every Christian Lion Hearted Man Will Show You
I Started A Joke
Islands In the Stream
If I Can’t Have You
Night Fever/More Than A Woman
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