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Barry Gibb, sole remaining Bee Gee, rocks Wells Fargo with brotherly love

'The City of Brotherly Love!" Barry Gibb announced Monday night at the Wells Fargo Center: "I know all about that!"
The "Mythology Tour" is his first since the 2012 death of brother Robin. Barry, the oldest, is now the sole surviving Bee Gee.
It's apparently easy to make fun of the Notorious BG - many people do. But jokes at the expense of his once-elegant coiffure, satin tour jacket, and flaring temper obscure a point so obvious it is rarely made: Gibb is the greatest songwriter of the modern pop era, adept in almost any genre, among its ablest chroniclers of the extremes of romance.
Freed of the constraints placed on him by a new album (the promotion of which so often capsizes a show by a living legend), pop's finest countertenor, his staccato falsetto in tip-top shape, guided the audience on a generous 21/4-hour trip through a catalog so vast and varied that the perfectly pitched 31-song set list could satisfy not only those who attended just to hear songs from "the Fever period," as Gibb tellingly referred to the mid-'70s, but purists, too.

The eight-piece band - three electric guitars, two keyboards (all those string and horn parts to cover, let alone Maurice's synths!) - offered taut, sinewy arrangements. The potential problem was that the Bee Gees were all about harmonies. Would Barry's now be a lost, lonely voice in the wilderness? The solution, elegance itself, was to keep it in the family: Maurice's daughter, Sami, and Barry's son, Steve (who also played lead guitar). Remaining harmonies were shared among three backing singers, one of whom, Beth Cohen, stepped in for both Barbra Streisand (on "Guilty" with "Woman in Love") and Dolly Parton (on "Islands in the Stream"). In one instance, Robin Gibb himself popped up on a video screen and assumed the vocals on "I Started a Joke," a rare example of this kind of haunting done well.
The tour's subtitle is "In Honor of His Brothers and a Lifetime in Music," and Gibb didn't spare us the hits he wrote for others, including Parton, Diana Ross, Celine Dion, and his own brother Andy, who died in 1988. He even played Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire," repaying the Boss (whom he mentioned he had never met) for recent live versions of "Staying Alive."
The stage banter was charming, occasionally very moving, and included the brilliantly casual "Here's one!" before the 1989 hit "One," itself a stupendous rewrite of "Jive Talkin'." The audience stood for the Saturday Night Fever songs and sat for the rest. Your 48-year-old reviewer was delighted to lower the average age considerably.
It's safe to say that someone who calls his tour the "Mythology Tour," who finishes the main set with "Immortality," and then triumphantly sends the audience home with "Tragedy," is comfortable with his status as a legend. This is as it should be, and the show reminded me of Leonard Cohen's: These are men with nothing to prove. The only thing that has eluded Barry Gibb is the serious critical acclaim so rarely granted pop acts of the Bee Gees' magnitude. That should change.

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Music History #8: "New York Mining Disaster 1941"By Bill De Main september 2012
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Image credit:  Getty Images
“New York Mining Disaster 1941 (Have You Seen My Wife, Mr. Jones)”
Written by Barry and Robin Gibb (1967)
Performed by Bee Gees


The MusicWhen the Bee Gees debut US single was released in April 1967, a lot of people thought it was The Beatles masquerading as another band. Even the name Bee Gees was read as code for “Beatles Group.” But within a year, brothers Barry, Robin and Maurice Gibb established themselves not only as hit makers in their own right, but as chart rivals to the Fabs. “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” the first of thirty-some hits, is one of those rare pop songs in which the title never appears in the lyrics. Most people still refer to it by its subtitle “Have you seen my wife, Mr. Jones.” Inspired by the Aberfan mining disas…