Australian Bee Gees Bring Saturday Night Fever to Kansas

The intimate Yardley Hall got a little visit from the disco era on Saturday night, for what was surely an early Valentine’s Day for many people. Taking a break from their residency at the Excalibur in Las Vegas, The Australian Bee Gees brought their show on a mini tour to select cities in America, as part of a partnership with PBS, as well as Germany, and their homeland of Australia. There were certainly a lot of fans in the audience, as the show was completely sold out. Most people in attendance looked to be old enough to have seen the original Bee Gees, but there was still a lot of diversity through the crowd.

For the past 19 years, through over 5,000 performances, the band has been working together to keep the spirit of The Bee Gees alive. Though the Australian part is slightly flubbed, for the supporting members of the band anyway, the trio of Brothers Gibb are all authentic Australian, and perform their parts admirably well. With Michael Clift on guitar and vocals, as Barry; Paul Lines as Robin; and Jack Leftley on keyboards and vocals rounding things out as Maurice. (With David Inamine on bass and keyboards, and Jeff Tetrault on drums).

The show was billed as a “multi-media tribute concert,” and at times the multimedia mixture worked remarkably well, sometimes it seemed awkward, and others, it was conspicuously absent. The show opened with a projection on a screen onstage (where all the multimedia would play out), showing “1970,” and snippets of different commercials from that era were shown, to comical effect, before Dolly Parton came on, introducing The Bee Gees.

The show opened with Nights on Broadway, followed by Talkin’ Jive and More than a Woman. At this point, with photography duties done, I was able to sit back (or stand back in a corner, remember: all seats were filled!) and enjoy the rest of the show. They went into 1968’s Gotta Get a Message to You, during which the projection showed high fashion shops from Carnaby Street (which is known as the fashion district in London, somewhat odd for an Australian group), as well as snippets showing fashion of the time. I feel that this was somewhat at odds with the lyrical content of the song, and did little to add to it. A medley of Bee Gees hits was offered as well, which amounted to a mish-mash of short intros, and near full-length versions of songs. I get that there’s a lot of territory to cover, which medleys try to cover, but it seemed awkward in this case.

Here, the different strengths of the musicians began to shine. Paul Lines (Robin), in his orange leisure suit, effortlessly hit the falsettos known in this song, while Paul seemed to not be able to get as much power behind his, an issue that became more pronounced as the show progressed – I did hear other people complaining about not being able to hear his guitar, so it is very possible this was a mixing issue.

While the music is spot-on, with accurate note-for-note versions of the songs, and sound impressions, the multimedia aspect does fall short; which is a bit of a shame, as that’s what the show is billed as. A lot of stock footage is used, as well as items that don’t quite fit with the music. For example, during Tragedy, a lot of footage of Las Vegas is shown, including day-to-night transitions; while the footage is beautiful, it’s modern Vegas. Footage of vintage Vegas might’ve felt more at home. Also, during their performance of Grease, the screen simply shows the word “Grease,” not in the iconic font, with various bits of clip art that add little to the song. Other times, no projection is used at all.

That’s not to say that it’s all bad. At times, “home movies” of the Bee Gees are shown, mixed with music videos, and live performance videos of the band, where the on-stage vocals sync perfectly with the video being projected onstage. In my mind, it is these moments when the multimedia portion is at its strongest.

But, these are minor quibbles. People who are going to the show are there for the music, which is executed well. Space is even made available down by the stage for the audience to come down and dance, which they are invited to do during the show. In all, the Australian Bee Gees puts on a highly enjoyable show, whether you’re a fan of the disco-era Bee Gee’s, the 80’s, or even the Las Vegas One Night Only incarnation. It’s easy to see why these guys have been hailed as the toast of Las Vegas. See the show, and you’ll be leaving the theater singing Stayin’ Alive, and dancing like John Travolta. At least it won’t look too strange in Sin City.

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