Jive Talkin’ perform the Bee Gees in Concert at The Queen’s Hall in Edinburgh was always going to be one of those hit or miss shows for me as, unlike many people, the massive “Disco success” years of The Bee Gees is not one of my favourite periods of the band, and there is no way you can escape this period in a show. It’s not really the songs (there were some great ones), but that now stereotyped “medallion man” image. For my own personal tastes, a lot of the songs that I like from The Bee Gees come from their very early recording careers (and let’s not forget that the band had put in many years together before that first album)…songs like “New York Mining Disaster 1941” and “I've Gotta Get a Message to You". The “Brothers Gibb” were simply one of the great songwriting teams of popular music, up there with the great names like Lennon & McCartney, Burt Bacharach & Hal Davis, Goffin & King. Over two very distinctively different sets in this show, Jive Talkin’ reminded us all of just how strong the Bee Gees back catalogue really is.
Jive Talkin’, like the Bee Gees, are a family affair consisting of brothers Darren Simmons (Maurice Gibb), Gary Simmons (Barry Gibb) and Jack Simmons (Darren’s son as Robin Gibb). The Jive Talkin’ show has been around for a long time now, and is a slick and well performed production that also takes the luxury of a live band on tour with the show. Graeme Foy (Lead Guitar) and Miguel Andrews (Drums) may be a standard band addition, but Ruth Player (violin) and Chris Howell (Cello) are not, and the strings add a much needed layer to the authenticity of the music. With an impressive sound and lighting system, this production is not touring lightly and gives audiences value for their money.
Although opening with the huge disco hit “You Should Be Dancing”, set one featured a lot of songs from the early years of the Bee Gees – mid 1960s to early 1970s. Some great songs in this set – “Massachusetts", “Don't Wanna Live Inside Myself” and "First of May" being only a few of them. Jive Talkin’, as I already said, have been doing this show for a long time, and that ease of connection with an audience was showing right from the beginning, and Gary kept a very light hearted approach to the whole evening…sometimes that worked well, sometimes not so well (like the Maurice Gibb/Lulu joke). If there was any problem with the first set, it was possibly that the early years of The Bee Gees as songwriters was maybe not too familiar to some of the audience. Any tribute band always has this problem – put in your own favourites and the audience might not know them too well.
Set two concentrating on mainly the Saturday Night Fever years and after was different, and with instantly recognisable songs like “Jive Talkin’” “Tragedy”, and “Night Fever”, the audience reactions were far more positive.
The Bee Gees of course are famous for those high register, close harmony vocals, and for the most part, Jive Talkin’ pulled that part off well. There is no escaping the age gap between Jack and Gary/Darren, and that did create a bit of an odd visual at times. Also, despite very good vocals, there is a richness to a human voice that often only comes with age, and at their peak, that was part of the power of the originals. That difference between a younger and an older voice was obvious on some of the close harmonies. The show did at times look like it was running the risk of becoming “The Gary Simmons Show”, and it is obvious that the music of the Bee Gees is very close to his heart. I am not sure that Jack shares that very close personal connection to the music though as at times he did look a little less comfortable with some of the songs than Gary. In all fairness to Jack though, he did appear to be having a few sound issues with his earpiece for some numbers tonight.
It is easy to forget too, just how many songs the Bee Gees wrote for other artists, and although "Islands in the Stream" (Dolly Parton and Kenny Rogers) was here, it would have been good to hear songs like “Chain Reaction” (Diana Ross), "Guilty" and "Woman in Love" (Barbra Streisand) or Heartbreaker" and "All the Love in the World” (Dionne Warwick). Perhaps some of these songs in the first set might have balanced out some of the less well known songs a bit more.
Jive Talkin’ are a slick and tight band, and they are putting on a show that certainly entertained the audience here in the Queen’s Hall. These songs are very complex harmonies to sing and Jive Talkin’ handled them well. If anything though, there was at times a lack of that energy that I associate with so many Bee Gees songs, and I think a large part of that was down to this being a fully seated venue set up tonight – the opening song said it all – “You Should Be Dancing”, and I think Jive Talkin’ maybe move up a gear to a dance floor venue.
Review by Tom King