United Center, Chicago
Tuesday, May 27, 2014
With over 200 million records sold, a slot in the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and radio airplay that includes six consecutive chart-toppers able to endure well beyond the days of disco, The Bee Gees are unquestionably one of the most successful acts in music history. Though critics haven’t always been kind to Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb across their many musical phases, fans have stayed faithful from the late 1950s until today, even as Barry continues to fly his family’s flag solo.
As one of just six dates on an all too limited American tour, the 67-year-old singer/songwriter respectably filled the United Center, and though Robin and Maurice may no longer be with us, the Mythology tour still managed to convey their spirits. Besides naming the show after the group’s 2010 box set of the same name, Barry’s nearly 30 song set list was ripe with Bee Gees hits spanning their baroque pop beginnings, total dance floor domination and later adult contemporary leanings. And to quote one of their most famous songs, the “Night Fever” had no trouble springing to life throughout a moving, almost three hour trip down memory lane courtesy of the leader and a vibrant backing band (including his son Stephen on guitar and periodic lead vocals).
The troupe got right down to business revisiting the days when afros and bell bottoms were just as common as vinyl albums and 8-tracks with the bountiful beats of “Jive Talkin’” and “You Should Be Dancing” inciting an instant dance party. The rest of the night read like a history lesson split between funky flavors and softer sentiments (“To Love Somebody,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “How Deep Is Your Love?”) all with the sole survivor in miraculously well-maintained vocal form.
There were also a few surprises beyond the band’s varied hit parade, such as a country-slanted reading of Bruce Springsteen’s “I’m On Fire,” the Bee Gees’ somewhat overlooked twilight gem “One,” plus plenty penned for other artists. Both the Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton duet “Islands In The Stream” and the Barry/Barbra Streisand ballad “Guilty” were recast between the headliner and capable background singer Beth Cohen, along with Barry putting his own sky high spin on “Grease” (first made famous by Frankie Valli).
A glitzy disco ball came down for the ceiling for the remaining Saturday Night Fever favorites, culminating in an encore of the pleading “Words” and arguably the group’s greatest groove “Tragedy.” And if that all wasn’t enough to bring back memories of Robin and Maurice, everyone was virtually reunited on the big screen for the golden great “Massachusetts,” which was perhaps the most fitting tribute Barry could’ve given his brothers to cap off the bittersweet evening.
Though Gibb’s Mythology marathon was definitely all about the oldies without any hints of current musical musings, the fact he’s never toured alone (nor did The Bee Gees come to Chicago anytime this century) made it long overdue. Chances are those who hung on each word will welcome him back anytime, while even skeptics could be convinced the band and man behind so many of its hits deserves some significant credit as a forerunner in shaping several shades of pop music through today.