Live Review: Barry Gibb - Sydney Entertainment Centre (08.02.13)

Barry Gibb

When Robin Gibb passed away in May of 2012, the Australian and British music scenes mourned the loss of an icon and a third of one of the most beloved trios of all time – The Bee Gees. After all, it’s rather difficult to navigate the genre of disco without stumbling upon countless hits from the band, or even the pop-rock scene of the late ‘60s and early ‘70s. When word got around that the eldest brother and owner of that high-pitched falsetto was setting out on his own solo tour – some of the first shows since the death of his third and last remaining brother – we were intrigued as to what to expect. It would no doubt be an emotional evening, but how would Gibb tackle the songs made famous by a three-part harmony? Last Friday, we found out.

While the house lights were still up, home movies featuring the three Gibb brothers – Barry, Robin and Maurice – gallivanting overseas while on tour in the ‘70s and ‘80s started rolling across the three video screens. Then and there the audience was given a touching insight into the lives of the chart toppers as they joked about with one another, doing impressions and posing for photos. We all developed a rapport with Gibb – and he hadn’t even made his way onto the stage. After a video of “Technicolor Dreams”, taken from the band’s 22nd and final studio album, Gibb strolled onto the stage in his all-black get-up, joined by eight musicians and three back-up singers. From there it was straight into J-j-j-jive Talkin’. Despite missing his two younger brothers alongside him, Gibb worked through the song, though with some noticeably softer vocal work. So noticeable in fact that it had us the teensiest bit worried as to how the singer would fare for the duration of the night. Come “Lonely Days” and disco favourite “You Should Be Dancing” (which sounded remarkably similar to the 1976 Children Of The World record), our fears were put to bed. Come on, it’s Barry Gibb for Christ’s sake.

Perhaps the most impressive aspect of the evening (aside from the crotch-grabbingly high notes Gibb could still belt out) was the delicacy with which the singer had put together his set list. While he could have readily churned out a set all too familiar to the WSFM Friday Night Party Mix playlist, he chose to dart between ballads and pop songs, soft rock and R&B, giving the audience a brief history of each track as he went along. “First Of May” was a ballad for Gibb’s wife Linda, named after the birthday of their first dog Barnaby; “Playdown” was written in Ossie Byrne’s small recording studio out the back of a butcher shop in Hurstville. For “On Time” and “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You”, Gibb’s eldest son Steven took over the mic, bringing his own hard rock style to the proceedings, while on “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart?” Gibb was joined by Maurice’s daughter Samantha. It was well and truly a family affair, even if it wasn’t the one we’re used to.

Talking of The Bee Gees’ love for other groups, such as The Hollies and The Beatles, Gibb dedicated a rendition of “The Long And Winding Road” to his favourite songwriter, Sir Paul McCartney, the two of them taking out one and two in the Guinness Book Of Records’ most successful songwriters in history category. Following this, he turned to the band’s first hit Down Under – and a milestone they only realised whilst on a boat over to England – “Spicks And Specks”.

Gibb’s songwriting talents were indeed showcased when he covered the Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers hit, “Islands In The Stream”, along with his duet with Barbra Streisand “Guilty” and Celine Dion’s “Immortality”. And it’s times like this you realise how little you’ve really done with your life.

In what was one of the more special moments of the evening, Gibb sung “I Started A Joke” and was aided by a familiar face – footage and audio of Robin performing the song at one of the band’s final shows. It fitted in seamlessly and earned Gibb a standing ovation, which can’t have been an easy feat for the crowd who boasted a median age of 60. Gibb held it together remarkably well, choosing instead to dwell on the happier memories of his brothers. He talked the audience through the traits of Andy, Maurice and Robin and gave them a sense of what it was like to know each of them, which spoke volumes of his character.

To close a solid two-hour set, Gibb returned to the stage for one final song and it was the one that had the 60-year-old security guards dancing in the isles: “Stayin’ Alive”. And that’s exactly what Barry Gibb is doing.

Long live the Bee Gee.

See the full photo gallery here.