Gig review: Barry Gibb - O2 Arena, London

 

"This place is full of Gibb," enthuses the last surviving Bee Gee.

Barry Gibb is performing for the first time without his two brothers, Maurice and Robin, who died in 2003 and 2012 respectively. However, the 67-year-old has his eldest son, Stephen, who resembles Henry Rollins and sounds like early 1990s rockers Dan Reed Network, assisting him on guitar, and Maurice's daughter, Sammy, on vocals.

The slender singer's Tammy Wynette-style twang is ideally suited to evocative numbers such as "How Can You Mend a Broken Heart?". Gibb starts with the robust triptych of "Jive Talkin'", "Lonely Days" (from 1970's "Man for All Seasons") and "You Should Be Dancing", a disco gem that prompts pockets of joyous, tail-end-of-a-wedding dancing. It's immediately clear that Gibbs's trembling, high-pitched falsetto voice is still in terrific shape, especially on the sweet "First of May", a track from 1969 that he dedicates to Robert Stigwood, an early champion for the Bee Gees.

Gibb, who still has enviable locks and a beautifully kept beard that wouldn't look out of place in Hoxton, methodically trawls through the Bee Gees' extensive back catalogue. The much-mocked threesome - Kenny Everett's "Massive Chew Sets" being the most memorable parody of the Bee Gees - certainly got the last laugh by selling a mind-boggling 220 million albums in their 55-year career.

After a strong start, the middle section of the gig is more variable. Highlights include early (and reasonably rare) tracks such as "Every Christian Lion-Hearted Man Will Show You", "New York Mining Disaster 1941" and "Morning of My Life". However, their standout ballad is still "How Deep Is Your Love", with one of the finest lyrics about being young lovers ever to feature in a pop song: "'Cause we're living in a world of fools/ Bringing us down/ When they should all just let us be." It provokes a standing ovation as does his perky foot-stomper "Spicks and Specks".

Dirges such as "Too Much Heaven" and "Fight the Good Fight" threaten to dampen spirits until the inevitable disco session kicks in: "Stayin' Alive", "If I Can't Have You", "Night Fever" and "More Than a Woman" are blasted out back to back. If you don't waggle a limb to one of those you probably need to check your pulse.

John Travolta isn't here, disappointingly, but apart from that this is a polished, poignant performance that ends on the sensational "Massachusetts".

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