by Kristin Battestella
Ah, the show that started it all! When I first saw One Night Only on HBO in the summer of 1997, I hated The Bees Gees. You can see how that turned out! After I purchased Bee Gees Gold, I bought One Night Only on cassette. Eventually I upgraded to the DVD, and I shall refer to both here. Actually when I worked at Sears, I begged my way into getting One Night Only put on the display TVs. I think I converted a few customers, to say the least. (One coworker went out and bought The Record!) One Night Only might be the best concert by the Brothers Gibb.
You Should Be Dancing leads off the live set with a touch of old school. The boys have a chuckle or two in the opening highlights, then Barry gets right into it. His falsetto voice is on form, and outside of a few instrumental changes, Dancing sounds exactly the same. (Please see our original review on Children of the World.)
Alone is introduced on a smooth transition from You Should Be Dancing, and this live version of the Still Waters single changed my life. (I’ve written more on the Webmistress page here.) Incredible lyrics and perfect vocals by Barry and Robin. Exceptional harmony and ad-libs by Maurice, Alone is the Brothers’ best post Fever song.
Barry thanks the audience and introduces the old tunes. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but Massachusetts is my Dad’s favorite. Even though he totally loves Robin’s delivery, this video is where my father coined Robin as ‘The Frog’. Robin takes over most of the song, with slight echoes from Baz on the second verse. The blue glasses clad Robin even smiles, and a fan gives him flowers!
In my opinion To Love Somebody sounds best on the original record, but this live version comes in a close second. The keyboard notes are instantly recognizable, and Barry’s lyrics might be clearer than the original. Robin’s belts and the harmony ending are tops. The audience claps, naturally.
When the CD of One Night Only first came out, there was a special package of six deleted songs. Why I’ve Gotta Get A message to You was not on the general release is beyond me. Robin’s verses are solid, and the bass guitar sounds awesome. I love when the guys close their eyes and really feel what they sing. Barry’s lines are on form, and the open ending here is tough to beat.
When my nieces watch ONO, and they do regularly, Words is about the time they ask, “Where’s Robin?” Barry takes hold of the mike and makes the women swoon, while Robin paces back and forth in the background. It’s kind of funny when you see it. Rob only comes up to the mike to sing the chorus, and actually I like the harmony chorus better than the all Baz original. Of course, the crowd screams and won’t let Barry finish the song.
Robin says it’s Mo’s turn, and Barry gives a “global plug” for Still Waters and Closer Than Close. When I saw this for the first time, my Dad changed the channel after the opening, raunchy lyric. He flicked back, and I was pleasantly surprised to hear, really for the first time, Maurice’s lower, sultry voice. Even though half the song sounds like one big sexy sigh, Close live is a success!
The boys speed things up with Islands In The Stream. Of course I was surprised it was really their song, but the Gibby rendition here is so lively and catchy. You can’t help but sing along, especially when the boys themselves get into it. Perfect melody, rhythm, lyrics, harmony.
I kind of like The One Night Only: Sydney rendition of One better, but my nieces can’t get enough of this song. Why do you ask? Barry’s little Ghand salutes get them going every time! I prefer the change ups and interludes in One, as well as the sharp ending here. Awl, who gave Barry the flowers? Fess up!
Big brother Baz dedicates Our Love (Don’t Throw It All Away) (!) to Andy, and Robin quickly disappears again. Barry handles the opening well, then turns the lead over to a tape of Andy. Robin rejoins with his mike for the brothers’ echoes, and an Andy montage takes over the screen.
Things speed up quickly with the Night Fever/More Than A Woman medley. Barry’s falsetto seems stronger with use during live shows, and the harmony sounds just like the original. After a Fever turnaround, Barry jumps into More Than A Woman. The transition and delivery is so smooth, and briefly I wonder why they didn’t do each song in its entirety. They could have.
As much as I love Still Waters, if I had to pick a miss on ONO this song would be it. The start is off and the heavy production of the finished version can’t quite be done on stage. Robin’s interlude isn’t as strong as the released version either. Still, it’s nice to know that it’s Maurice making all those ooooos and ahhhhhs. After so many repeat viewings, you really notice and enjoy Mo’s unparalleled contributions that the casual fan can’t appreciate.
Barry tells the audience the boys are going to do some old dribs and drabs. Morning of My Life introduces the uninitiated to Barry, Robin, Maurice, and a microphone. You need nothing else. The boys sound exactly like the original Morning, thirty years before. Another of the six left off the main release, the lyrics of Morning are so wonderful. Imagine when they were kids penning this diddy. Do you think they knew? Morning is fascinating because it shows fans that for the brothers, some things haven’t changed.
Barry gives some back story about the Wala Wala Police Boys Club, then gives a moment to the power of Australia. Baz spotlights Olivia Newton-John, then the boys tackle New York Mining Disaster 1941. Another incredible story song with incredible delivery. The first time we watched this, my sister proclaimed that Robin sounded “So British!“ My father explained, “That’s because he is British.”
Too Much Heaven was also wrongly left off the main release, as it is in my opinion the best version of the song ever. No high pitched almost too shrill wails. Barry’s easy verse and the twins’ harmony make this tune more beautiful. These lyrics can’t be beat.
I Can’t See Nobody ends side 1 of my cassette. Robin’s style is slightly different from the original, but you can understand him this time. The words are here, and more harmony galore!
I love the live versions Run To Me. Every time Robin seems to cut Barry off when doing the chorus. In the original the chorus is already perhaps the best harmonizing ever, but live there is no great guitar work to detract from the trio of voices. Exceptional.
When I was brave enough to lend my cassette to my sister and her car, my niece’s favorite song became And The Sun Will Shine. She’s only 8 now, but she’s got good taste. Robin’s voice is stronger than the original, and his cryptic words almost make sense. He gets so into, and at one point looks absolutely-I don’t know how else to describe it-orgasmic.
Barry and Maurice must have caught onto this also. All through Nights on Broadway, there is some kind of in joke between the boys. They smile and laugh while hitting all the high notes. A too short, but solid rendition. Of course I must mention all the commotion following Broadway. Barry’s sweat will do that to people.
How Can You Mend a Broken Heart turns the show back to the music. The beat is a bit faster, and the harmony is in slightly different places because of it. Me likes this. It’s also nice to see just Barry and Robin sharing a microphone. As much as I love three part harmony, Barry and Robin make a very strong case for their dual leads here.
The Bee Gees are the only group I know that have a whole section of ‘things we wrote for other people’. Heartbreaker starts this group off. At the time, this song was less well known to me, but it got stuck in my head quickly. The heart tugging lyrics got me, as did the boys rhythms and chorus. The one bad part here is that it’s too short.
Guilty comes next, because Barry says Woman In Love wouldn’t look right. Baz’s lines are on form, and the three part harmony doesn’t just fill in for Barbra’s absence, it might just exceed her. The soft delivery by the brothers is no less powerful and oh so pleasing to the ear.
Immortality is introduced by Barry, and guest star Celine Dion enters the stage. On my first viewing, I wondered what she was doing with the disco king Bee Gees, and my dad wondered who the heck she was that she was worthy on being stage with The Brothers Gibb. Today my nieces crack up at Celine’s over the top antics when she sings. Celine’s voice and Gibb lyrics are tough to beat. Who needs that silly Titanic song she did? Immortality is on the same album! If anyone has a tough time understanding Celine or Barry’s demo on The Record, I highly suggest you read the lyrics online. Shear poetry!
After all that praise, I must highlight Robin’s near trip over Celine’s microphone cord!
Tragedy is another song that might be superior live-and not just because of the kick ass explosions involved. Barry’s high pitch isn’t on the toe toward annoying, and the music is upgraded from the 1979 synthesizer. And of course, the boys look like they are having some fun!
I’m not sure if it is good placement or a bad spot, but I Started A Joke is smushed between Tragedy and Grease. Another sends-shivers-up-your-spine track from Robin, but the lyrics are still enigmatic as ever. Barry turns to the band and gives the Robster his moment. Not only is it awesome, but I’m glad Robin doesn’t need to hold his hand up to ear anymore!
Grease gets the packed Grand grooving. After a few turns by Barry, a Frankie Valli recording takes over. The boys echo as only they can echo, while the camera spotlights some movie footage and Olivia again. The person that’s most into the tune? Brother Mo. Grease may be the word, but Barry makes sure to hold out his notes a little longer, so he gets the last word over Frankie!
Now I may not like the original Jive Talking, but a live version I can tolerate. My nieces get so lively over it, the energy created by the boys, the jumping crowd. It’s all quite catchy. When it’s just the boys with a beat and a clapping crowd, I remember that sometimes, bullshitting and laying it on thick can be good.
How Deep Is Your Love returns it to how I really like. Suave Barry taking it to the heart, baby! Clips of the gang’s wives and children fill the background while the boys sing one of their classics-classic even without any Fever association. I need to play this back to back with the original and see if I hear a difference. Who else can sing a song identical to the original twenty years later? Even Elvis ad-libbed.
Barry’s daughter Ali comes on stage, but gets run off by Staying Alive! The lyrics are easier to understand than the original, but then my sister starts to sing along and destroys the whole thing. Tee hee. I don’t like to listen to Staying Alive, but I love to watch Barry, Robin, and Maurice sing it. Where they get the oxygen to hold the notes the way only they can hold them is beyond me. Staying Alive was actually supposed to be the closing song, and the boys even go off stage while the band finishes. Naturally the crowd demands more, and the boys return.
Maurice thanks all and introduces Ben Stivers, Matt Bonelli, Steve Rucker, Alan Kendall, Stephen Gibb, and John Merchant before the rock out of You Should Be Dancing. The lights strobe everywhere and Barry sounds better than the opening warm up. Everyone looks to be having fun, and the crowd really does dance. When the music badabings to a close, I always expect Alone to come on again. Boo and shucks, One Night Only is over!
If I had to pick one Gibb item for new fans, old fans, or those people who might not be fans at all, One Night Only is the disc. Better yet, spring for the One Night Only/This Is Where I Came In Biography combo. Gibb folk of old can reminisce, and fans unaware will be awed at the story and catalogue of The Brothers Gibb. This set is a must share with future generations.