by Kristin Battestella
So after saying I’m going to do a Here At Live review this month and then that month, I’m finally doing it! Why not take a gander at the boys 1977 Live double disc? I bought a promo record set of Here At Last from my local Gibber friend Molly, but I’ve only listening to it once or twice. My mom asked if it was really worth the $20 dollars....Heck yeah! Fortunately, I found the CD set at a shop several months later, and then all was right with the world.
If I had to tell my utmost favorite Bee Gees song, this version of I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You has to be it. Is it perfect? No. There are certainly tighter tunes out there to present as finer points of Gibb songwriting. I love the original-it’s so sappy and melancholy-but the Here at Last version of Message rocks and has that somber feel. The brass puts it over the top, and Robin is still quivering his sad tune in between. Barry’s ad-libbed ending gives Message that extra pop. There’s even a “You rock, Barry!” shout at the end. Robin’s recent live version comes close-it does after all have a full orchestra-but the height of harmony here wins out. A must hear and an excellent starting point.
As a later day Gibber, I find it refreshing to hear a live set start out with something other than You Should be Dancing (I’ve see One Night Only way too many times!) Live focuses on the old school, and it so sweet to here Love So Right live. Barry’s voice is sweet as ever, and the booming chorus keeps the powerhouse feel going. Robin and Maurice echo perfectly, and it almost feels like it’s just the boys singing a sweet diddy, never mind the 20,000 listening. Well, I don’t really know how many people the old Los Angeles Forum held. (Or as Barry says Los Angelees.)
In contrast from the first two tunes, Edge of The Universe sounds almost exactly like its Main Course original. It’s louder and Robin’s delivery seems stronger, which isn’t the case on all the songs here. Sometimes he gets drowned out by the booms. Obsessive fans will note this is the only album cover capturing Robin’s briefly there beard. Of course my nieces were more concerned with why they boys were wearing pink!
Come on Over might actually be a miss here. It is an excellent country-esque love song, but tunes like that aren’t meant for the Forum. Robin’s soft delivery softens the instruments behind. Maybe this tune was intentionally placed as a breather? Still, it is beautiful and pleasing, if unexpected live.
I like Can’t Keep a Good Man Down here more than the Children of the World original. Its instrumental length here amounts to a rocking guitar duel, as opposed to a dated seventies diddy. Quite a nice tune live that I thought was obscure, but not in 1977 it seemed. With tongues firmly in cheek, the boys and the band bring the house down. Again the only miss here seems to be Robin’s interlude. He’s louder in the chorus, but flubs the lyrics in his standout moment. Hmph.
Ah the medley! Even then the Boys had to squish all their hits into a mini show. New York Mining Disaster 1941 begins the tradition of Barry, Robin, Maurice and a microphone. Despite the band waiting patiently, Disaster needs nothing but the bare minimum. Broken into parts for the CD, a combo Run to Me/World follows Disaster. The most excellent chorus of Run to Me slides perfectly into the melancholy World. Even though I’m not sure how these two got put together, since Run to Me is from 1974’s To Whom it May Concern and World is from Horizontal. Not that it matters. The boys strong and snappy ending of World gets a rise from the crowd. As if there was any doubt.
Holiday/I Can’t See Nobody/I Started a Joke/Massachusetts continues the quickly moving medley. Although we have no video of Here At Last Live, The crowd’s giggles and cheers during Holiday gives fans in the know a picture of Maurice-obviously doing something to get attention. Although it sounds nothing like the original on First, I Can’t See Nobody sounds exactly as it does on One Night Only-20 years later. It’s spine chilling.
I Started a Joke should have gotten the full fledged treatment, but most of the song is here. If Robin gave you any doubts earlier, he washes them away here with one breath. He just needed to warm up I suppose. Massachusetts completes the set on a high note, and again Robin shifts perfectly from the melancholy Joke to uplifting Massachusetts. The over the top ending is perfect harmony.
The Boys keep things eased down with the Trafalgar hit How Can You Mend a Broken Heart. Barry balances between strong soul and wispy notes, and the music follows suit. As always the chorus is solid, and the extra echoes set the tune off.
To Love Somebody closes side one on a slow jam note. From Barry’s opening word, you can tell this version has a bit more soul to it. Maybe it’s the brass in the background or Barry’s huskier delivery, but the tune is slightly slower as well. Even though the original is dated quintessential summer of 67, this update gives the tune a serious 70s feel. It takes getting used to, but once you do, it’s dang good.
Never one to be forgotten, You Should Be Dancing starts off disc 2 of Here At Last Live. Of course my feelings for the original Children of the World track are ambiguous, but you must be in a dancing mood to give this tune a go. The brass, the band, the boys-all groove it to the hilt for 9 minutes. Yes I said 9 minutes. And this before Fever was burned into our brains.
I like Boogie Child-talk about your guilty pleasures. The original is of course dated, and the chorus is also here. I do however, so love the grooving verses and kicking music. For passing fans that think Barry is mister high pitch, it is interesting to note that the shrill vocals here are Robin and Maurice against Barry’s rough and husky delivery.
Down the Road hails from the underestimated Mr. Natural album. It rocks there just fine, but here the song seems out of place. The boys egg the audience to their feet, but Road isn’t the rabble rouser they try to make it out to be. It’s tough to sing along with Barry’s sped up vocals, and I wonder what Robin and Maurice did during this concert other than echo Barry? I think Down the Road’s placement works against it as well. My touch of negativity and yet I can’t think of a better song to replace Down the Road. Wait, is Fanny doable live?
And the one time we definitely know we here Maurice is with his “Ladies and Gentlemen, Mister Barry Gibb!“ introduction to Words. Like To Love Somebody, Barry summons shades of Barry White for his popular solo number. It is of course beautiful.
Not that the Boys were that stretched material wise, but the first half of Here At Last definitely has a few more memorable tunes than side 2. Wind of Change sounds awesome here, but just five years later this tune would be out of date. Pity. The one time Robin feels in volume with the music is here.
Barry, Robin, and Maurice save their cinchers for the big finish. Nights on Broadway leads the home stretch in perfect fashion and gets a rise from the crowd. It doesn’t sound that different from the Main Course hit, but the falsetto bits that changed the boys career isn’t that noticeable here. The soft interlude, however, is perfection.
And of course, Jive Talkin makes its presence known and it just has to be one of the longer songs on Here At Last. Grr. Although it’s kind of ironic, you can’t hear all of Barry’s vocal bits, for once the brass overpowers him. The big band, however, offers no major differences for my less than favorite track.
Without their traditional How Deep is Your Love/You Should Be Dancing closer of the nineties, The Brothers chose Lonely Days as the finisher here. It rocks and cracks me up. Live’s version of Lonely Days has all the ad-libs befitting a rock out and as many musical tweaks in all the right places. In later concerts, Lonely Days is jammed in the middle. People need to get up and rock their numb butts. Here, however, this unconventional ballad brings down the house and keeps it that way. I love the ending. The boys thank the audience, and shout, “Merry Christmas!”
Here at Last Live is a fascinating look at The Bee Gees getting down immediately before the Fever juggernaught. Despite a few less than powerhouses-and without Staying Alive or Tragedy or Grease-the boys could still sell out stadiums. That’s something the next generation needs to learn and Here At Last Live is the perfect time capsule to do it. Oh, and it sounds good, too.