One Night Only / The Official Story
starring Barry Gibb, Maurice Gibb, Robin Gibb
Eagle Rock Entertainment
There are few artists who can claim viable chart success in 5 different decades, but the Bee Gees, despite internal conflicts and bouts of popular backlash, outlasted them all. In the ’60s it was “Lonely Days, Lonely Nights”. In the ’70s it was “Jive Talkin'”, “Saturday Night Fever”, “Tragedy” among many. The ’80s saw a comeback with “One”, and sales remained steady up and through the ’90s with the Still Water disc, reaching #11. In the new millennium the album and title track This Is Where I Came In was some of the strongest and critically acclaimed material the band had managed in years, landing them another top 20 smash. Their recent Greatest Hits 2-CD set is one of the most breathtaking collections of hits in popular music history, already selling well over a million copies.
Pop? Rock? White soul? R&B? Disco? It was hard to peg the sound. But perhaps it was this crossover appeal that made brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb so accessible to fans of each genre. Yet this would be discounting their unparalleled and often underrated songwriting craftsmanship, which undoubtedly helped them into the Rock ‘n’ Roll Hall of Fame.
Fortunately, as the years passed and more objective critical reflection took place, the Bee Gees were finding themselves immersed in a renaissance when they released the concert video One Night Only in 1997, taped at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas. Their two-hour A&E Biography followed in 2002, which was also released on DVD later that year with extra footage.
Both have now been issued as a DVD box set. What makes these collections so complementary to each other is the healthy overview and overall quality that separates these from other releases. Of the two recent live Bee Gees DVDs, One Night Stand indeed stands on its own. Where the 2003 Live By Request is a spotty A&E production marred by tinny sound and an annoying premise in which fans call in to talk with the band between songs… well, let’s just say it gets very old, very quick upon repeated viewings. One Night Only, on the other hand, is much warmer in sound and features the trio in the larger-than-life setting of Las Vegas where they enthrall with a legion of hits, performed with the kind of professionalism and legitimate emotion so rare these days, it’s often stunning. Barry’s falsetto (discovered during a “Nights on Broadway” writing session) is as consistent as ever precise, while the charisma of the three voices and backing band is stunning. From the teeter-tottering early Beatle-esque rock of “Lonely Days” to the infectious funk of “Jive Talkin” through the “disco” era and into the Still Waters fare, virtually every track demonstrates the effortlessly rich and layered melodies they have become known for. Despite the fact that the early material and ’70s material seemingly wouldn’t fit well together, it somehow works here because, as they say, a good song is a good song. And those voices? They tie it all together.
The concert was literally a “one night only” event, for the band only performed one show on each continent during that tour, making each date more special and affording vocalist/guitarist Barry Gibb relief from severe back pain. Thus, the performers give it their all. They also allow for some special moments. Celine Dion guests on one track, and the band performs hits which they wrote but were not the primary artists, such as “Grease” and “Islands in the Stream.”
The direction is energetic but avoids unnecessary gimmicks. The Gibbs’ proud and earnest faces, coupled with their stellar throats, emit all the magic needed to get the crowd in a mania, whether the audience is gyrating in the concert venue or at home. The stage is accented with dynamic lighting and a judiciously used video screen, capturing eras of the band without distracting from the music. The band is gutsy enough to begin on and end on “You Should Be Dancing” but the crowd is more than happy to oblige, probably just thrilled the rare appearance has been extended 4 more minutes. Easily beating out their other live DVD, One Night Only is the ultimate Bee Gees concert documentation.
Where One Night Only chronicles the music onstage, The Official Story gives us the “behind-the-music” companion. Though some authorized biographies wax over hardship and faults, this is a deeply put together piece of work that includes all the big names contributing, including producer Sir George Martin, top journalists and the Bee Gees themselves. It is all here. The English roots, Australian upbringing, ’60s teen sensationalism, the short breakup, the ’70s comeback, the Sgt. Pepper movie fiasco, Saturday Night Fever, American backlash circa 1980 and the resurgence. Toss in Maurice’s bouts with alcoholism and Barry’s struggle with back problems and you have a compelling story. Though it might be easy to imagine a sensationalistic approach, it might be due to the “authorized” element that, for better or for worse, the personal bouts are handled with class and brevity. There is also chronicling of the bands evolution way from straight pop to more black-inspired sounds and the rediscovery of their roots rock leanings. In the end, the “story” is at its strongest by making a strong argument that the band is not only commercially one of the biggest in the world, but one of the most talented and persevering.
Though obviously bittersweet, this comes at a moment when there is tangible renewed interest in the Bee Gees, due in part to Maurice’s passing and issuing of their Hits compilation. It also comes at a perfect time. Just when the moniker could have slowly began to fade, this is one of a few key releases that will help keep the band’s grand musical contribution in our conscience as well as celebrate their half-century as premier showmen. Even in the face of death, all three Brothers Gibb are “Staying alive” in the hearts of the music world and will continue to do so for decades to come.
The Bee Gees Online: http://www.beegeesonline.com/