Hard Rock Live, Hollywood
Tuesday, February 21, 2012
Better than: Anyone might have possibly expected.
Can one Bee Gee make up for the lack of three?
After Maurice Gibb's passing and Robin Gibb's recent health scare, it was left to brother Barry to carry on the band's legacy and prove that he can keep the band's spirit shining. Definitely, a formidable task.
One of the most successful bands of the past 40 years, it was the group's spirited harmonies and collaborative songwriting that assured their success. So, when Barry Gibb bravely ventured out on the Hard Rock Live stage to stand solo in the spotlight, he likely realized he faced a challenge. Could he meet the audience's expectations? Happily, the answer was yes.
The high falsetto, used to such great extents, from Saturday Night Fever on, was more than proficient. Several more-obscure selections, some dating back to their earliest days in Australia, proved more than adequate when it came to providing a Bee Gees devotee's desire for deep cuts.
Though his lion-like mane is thinning and has gone completely gray, Gibb retains the same magnetic charisma that first commanded attention early on. And onstage at Hard Rock, he looked perfectly at ease, though a bit awestruck at the enthusiastic reaction that greeted him throughout the set's 20 songs and hour and a half duration. Garbed in a green silk shirt and jeans, he soaked up the fact as a South Florida homeboy, he's celebrated as a conquering hero at home.
"Thank you for coming," he said early on. "You'll never know how much this means to me. To do something in my hometown is extraordinary."
Indeed, it was both fitting and auspicious that Gibb should choose a local stage like the Hard Rock for his first U.S. solo appearance. The emphasis remained mainly on the Bee Gees canon, with several otherwise obscure selections providing historical affirmation. Who would expect to hear such gems as "First of May," "Spicks and Specks," "Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You," "Morning of My Life," and "Lonely Days" tossed into the mix when he could have relied solely on more obvious hits?
While he wisely avoided those songs that his brother Robin sang lead on ("Gotta Get a Message to You," for example, was sorely missed), the chart busters old and new ("Stayin' Alive," "Words" "1941 New York Mining Disaster," "Jive Talking," "More Than a Woman," and "Night Fever") kept the oldies enthusiasts satisfied. What's more, his eight-piece band, which includes his eldest son, Stephen, on guitar, was right on cue. It astutely replicated the original arrangements, while a trio of backing singers dressed '70s-style did their best to fill the vocal gaps caused by the absence of his brothers.
In fact, thoughts of family continually pierced the proceedings. "Words" was dedicated to wife, Linda, and his growing brood of grandkids and his expanded family of children, nephews, and nieces.
Earlier, a representative of the latter, Maurice's daughter Samantha, made a well-received cameo appearance, beginning with a solo take on the evergreen classic "End of the World" (one of two non-Bee Gees entries in the set, the other being Barry's slinky cover of "Fever," which segued into an equally sultry version of "Stayin' Alive").
She brought down the house, suggesting that a rewarding singing career lies ahead of her. Likewise, son Stephen's selection, a gritty yet otherwise unknown Maurice track called "On Time," gave him ample opportunity to spotlight his impressive guitar prowess and a gritty vocal that seemed well in sync with his tattooed hands and forearms. The boy does not look like a Bee Gee.
Barry also shared the spotlight later on, bringing back-up singer Beth Cohen to center stage to sing the Dolly Parton and Barbra Streisand role on "Islands in the Stream" and "Guilty," respectively. The former was especially impressive, further proof that even beyond the Bee Gees, Gibb ranks as one of the most prolific and proficient songwriters of the modern era.
Still, the most poignant moment of the evening came at the finale of the set and just prior to the encore, when he paid homage to his brothers Andy and Maurice, both deceased, and Robin, apparently still struggling for his life.
"I know there are people in the audience with an inclination for prayer," he said softly. "I know that I'm one as well," he added, letting his words trail off after expressing the obvious. He then launched into a powerful and heartfelt read of "Immortality," a song the brothers penned for Celine Dion. It was clearly an exercise in emotion, with Gibb giving it his all and allowing the lyric "We never say goodbye" to resonate with meaning. He then left the stage, returning a short time later for his sole encore, a reprise of "Stayin' Alive," this time performed in its original incarnation.
A great concert, one that was truly captivating, we found Barry as brilliant as ever. Sometimes, it seems, nostalgia need not be confined to the past. In this case, it embraced the present as well.
Personal bias: The song selection was ideal. I particularly loved the fact that he did "First of May," one of the loveliest songs the Bee Gees ever recorded.
Random detail: The crowd was older, as might be expected, but there was also a significant number of enthusiastic middle-aged individuals, affirming the fact that the Bee Gees still command a broad audience.
By the way: Even the Saturday Night Fever songs were terrific. All is now forgiven for their digression to disco.
You Should Be Dancing
First of May
To Love Somebody
End of the World/How Can You Mend a Broken Heart (with Samantha Gibb)
How Deep Is Your Love
On Time (Stephen Gibb)
1941 New York Mining Disaster
With the Sun in My Eyes
Morning of My Life
Spicks and Specks
Every Christian Lionhearted Man Will Show You
Islands in the Stream (with Beth Cohen)
Guilty (with Beth Cohen)
Night Fever/More Than a Woman