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Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Bee Gees: One Night Only

BEE GEES: ONE NIGHT ONLY (1998)

1) Intro: You Should Be Dancing / Alone; 2) Massachusets; 3) To Love Somebody; 4) Words; 5) Closer Than Close; 6) Islands In The Stream; 7) Our Love; 8) Night Fever / More Than A Woman; 9) Lonely Days; 10) New York Mining Disaster 1941; 11) I Can't See Nobody; 12) And The Sun Will Shine; 13) Nights On Broadway; 14) How Can You Mend A Broken Heart; 15) Heartbreaker; 16) Guilty; 17) Immortality; 18) Tragedy; 19) I Started A Joke; 20) Grease; 21) Jive Talking; 22) How Deep Is Your Love; 23) Stayin' Alive; 24) You Should Be Dancing; 25*) I've Gotta Get A Message To You; 26*) One; 27*) Still Waters; 28*) Morning Of My Life; 29*) Too Much Heaven; 30*) Run To Me.

According to some sources, One Night Only was supposed to be the Bee Gees' last show (hence the name) — because of Barry Gibb's worsening arthritis problems (turns out he really did love his guitar playing; ironically, in the end he still keeps on playing it as late as the 2010s, while the other Gibb brothers are up in the heavens). And where better to play the last ever Bee Gees show than at the MGM Grand casino in Las Vegas? In 1998, the posh casino ambience was the only one that was still perfectly suitable for the aging Gibbs and their suaveness.

The show was planned as a historical retrospective of the brothers' career — hence the abundance of titles, many of which have been severely cut and medley-fied (a corrupt practice that the band had initiated already in the mid-1970s) in order to fit the bill. Unfortunately, the Bee Gees treat their backlog just the way you'd expect them to treat it: «big commercial hit» = «worth perfor­ming», «great flopped single / obscure, but exciting album track» = «forget it». Oh well, at least you cannot accuse the brothers of a lack of objectivity — and, most probably, they were giving the people assembled at MGM Grand exactly what they wanted to hear.

The only exception to the rule — actually, «modification» rather than «exception» — is that the brothers also perform several songs that they wrote for other artists, such as ʽIslands In The Streamʼ (a hit for Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton), ʽDon't Throw It All Awayʼ (written for Andy Gibb, with some of his vocalizations played back on tape in unison with the live Gibbs), ʽHeart­breakerʼ (a hit for Dionne Warwick), and ʽGuiltyʼ (for Barbra Streisand). As far as I am concer­ned, all of these are very, very, very bad songs, reflecting the Gibbs' final crossover into the bland adult contemporary market, and the crown jewel is the recent hit ʽImmortalityʼ, for which they are actually joined on stage by the culprit — Celine Dion. «MGM Grand» indeed.

Nevertheless, when all the barbs have been spent, and when there is no more strength left to go on with the lashing, the Gibb brothers, even smothered in cheese, sugar, sarcasm, and irony, will be left standing on their own two feet. Because there is neither any denying the greatness of way too many of these other songs, nor, most importantly, any denying the fact that most of them are performed with professionalism, spirit, and even occasional signs of grace. Ironically, it is the falsetto tunes that Barry seems to struggle with on a regular basis: ʽStayin' Aliveʼ, in particular, is exactly what the man is genuinely trying to do after squeezing out these high notes at top speed for such a long time (where twenty years ago it all came rather naturally). (Then again, ʽStayin' Aliveʼ did always lay the heaviest tax on Barry's vocal cords — there must have been very few live performances where he'd live up to the studio version).

But these are also the guys that brought you ʽMassachusetsʼ, ʽHow Can You Mend A Broken Heartʼ, ʽWordsʼ, ʽI Can't See Nobodyʼ, ʽNew York Mining Disasterʼ, ʽTo Love Somebodyʼ, ʽLonely Daysʼ, ʽI Started A Jokeʼ... yes, the list could have been expanded with ʽLemons Never Forgetʼ, ʽYou'll Never See My Face Againʼ, and ʽDogsʼ, but would you really play these songs to a bunch of middle-aged suckers who may have just lost thousands of dollars at a nearby roulette table? Forget it and just savour the lushness, the style, the composure, the fitness of the magni­ficent Gibb brothers and their unbeatable harmonies. And much as I dislike the castration of the individual songs in order to fit them into the medley format (ʽRun To Meʼ in the bonus track pack is particularly pitiable), the idea to make a brief unplugged version of ʽNights On Broadwayʼ in­stead of re-running the old «smooth funk» arrangement is a good one.

In short, hearing the album won't hurt as much as owning it (encountering an album sleeve like that in one's collection might lead to serious problems with the vice squad) — but documentally speaking, this is the last official Bee Gees live album, and it may be instructive to know that, de­spite not having had a decent studio album in almost twenty years, they were still willing and able to cut it on stage without a glitch (discounting some of Barry's fermented falsetto notes). Having gained that knowledge, you are definitely not obliged to give the record another listen. It is, after all, designed for One Night Only — we will respect that.


Check "One Night Only" (CD) on Amazon
Check "One Night Only" (MP3) on Amazon

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