DIGITAL EDITION: Groove With The Australian Bee Gees

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It’s hard to imagine such a niche show like this doing well, but it does. In a town overrun with tribute artists, impersonators and what-not, one would think that tourists have become jaded and have a “been there, done that” mentality when it comes to picking shows. After all, there are more than a hundred shows on The Strip and beyond.

So it was very refreshing to see a fairly sizable crowd at the Thunder Showroom at the Excalibur, on one Thursday evening. While it wasn’t “standing room only,” it was full enough so that there are no awkward gaps in seating, or much worse, gaping “holes,” in the theater, which we can only imagine can be very disheartening to any performer.

The five-member band (three “Gibbs,” a drummer and a bass player) need not worry as it seems that they’ve got their formula down pat.  Chalk it up to over 10 years of experience – when it was formed in Melbourne Australia in July 1996, by Michael Clift (he plays Barry Gibb). They have established such a strong rapport and it’s obvious that they’re very comfortable with each other as the line-up – David Scott as Robin Gibb, Wayne Hosking as Maurice Gibb, Rick Powell on drums and Tony Richards on bass – have not changed in over a decade. Even more impressive is that the set-up is fairly simplistic – there are no dancers, numerous costume changes, special effects, back-up singers, even extra musicians. At best, there are two video screens playing some footage of either the actual Bee Gees, or in some instances, just graphics to accompany a song.

The audience can probably be split into two general categories – pre- and post-Saturday Night Fever. I belong to the latter, so I could relate to only half the songs. So perhaps it’s only natural that I’m a bit biased into thinking that they achieved their best vocal harmonies with the songs that I am familiar with.  Their earlier songs  – “Nights on Broadway,” “Holiday,” “I Started a Joke,” “I’ve Got To Get a Message To You,” “New York Mining  Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones?)” “I Can See Nobody” and “Run To Me,” were done in the earlier half of the production – and garnered quite a positive reception. By this I mean that those like “Holiday,” got a smattering of applause. Of course, “Run To Me,” had half of the audience singing to it – and then you could tell that they were really warming up.

And then it’s my era –meaning the songs are from “Saturday Night Fever,” “Grease” and the likes of “Too Much Heaven,” “Guilty,” I’m sure you know the drill. Of these, their rendition of “How Deep is Your Love?” is probably the closest to how I remember the Bee Gees. Meaning as far as vocal accuracy – this was the most authentic-sounding. The disco medley and segment  of the night was a fun touch.  “Shadow Dancing,” “Staying Alive,” “If I Can’t Have You,” and “Night Fever” got some of the audience members dancing on the makeshift “Club Mo” introduced by (I think) a cast member of Thunder From Down Under.

At most times, their original voices overshadow those of the Gibb brothers – making the songs more like cover versions than a “tribute artist” who strives for what I can only assume, for some vocal authenticity in each number. But this doesn’t seem to matter to the audience. There were some numbers which I felt could have benefited from an acoustic, “unplugged” treatment, which would have probably highlighted their harmonizing, but again, I have only one perspective, and know of only “half the story,” so to speak.

The proof is in the pudding – and at the end, everyone got their feet, and clamored for an encore, or in this case, two final songs. There is a reason why this group has been around for more than a decade; a reason why they have performed live to over one million people and over 40 countries. It’s because you’re getting the Bee Gees, or to put it more accurately, the Australian Bee Gees.

-Rachel M. Sugay

The Australian Bee Gees Show, Excalibur Hotel. Show times are 7 p.m., Saturday-Thursday. Tickets are $44.95 and $54.95. Call 702-597-7600 to purchase.