Review of the Robin Gibb concert at the Heineken Music Hall, Amsterdam
by Dutch fan Michel.
© Anneke Ruys
Last friday (October 22, 2010) I saw Robin in the Heineken Music Hall in
Amsterdam, the Netherlands. I was more than a bit worried on beforehand,
having seen some recent youtube clips and of course with "Robin Gibb with the Neue Philharmonie Frankfurt" album in mind, easily the worst record in
the Bee Gees 40 year recording career. The Hall was almost sold out, which
means a few thousand visitors.
After the support act, the band came out and started a short musical intro
which to my ears did not include any Gibb song snippets. Then the backup
singers came out and sang part of a song I could not recognize either. For a
moment I thought I was at the wrong concert (1) but then Robin came out and
started to sing... "You Win Again". I had heard him do this song before on
the BBC talent show Fame Academy and it's really a song that Barry
sings/sang way better. I think not many people recognized the song either.
Then came "a song from THAT film", as Robin described most of the Saturday
Night Fever songs during the concert, "More than a woman". This, to my
surprise, sounded much better. Perhaps it has to do with the fact that the
melody, even though it's fast paced, stays within a certain melodic range,
but anyway, Robin's voice fitted in well.
Next up was "I started a joke". Obviously fitted to Robin's voice, this
sounded eh... very good. There was a significant portion of die-hard 60s Bee
Gees fans in there (the Bee Gees were REALLY big in the 60s in the
Netherlands, from "Spicks and Specks" on) and they gave standing
ovations for songs like this throughout the concert. Robin's voice, of
course, as the rest of his body, is getting older but to me this sounded as
strong as his performances on any of the last Bee Gees concerts (perhaps a
note or two lower).
Next up was "Emotion" (called "Emotions" on the setlist I made a photo of, I
was sitting right in front of the sound control/mixing board). Again, this
was better than I expected or remembered from the Frankfurt album. So, I
think it's fair to say the sound mix of that album really killed it. Even
from the audience this concert sounded way better than that album. Could
also be that the sound mix problem was caused by having a band AND an
orchestra to record. Without the orchestra, it all sounds a lot tighter. I
liked the backing vocals here, they really succeeded in copying some of the
"Samantha Sang sound".
In between songs, Robin spoke quite a lot, cracking jokes, telling stories,
making it all a lot less serious (which I liked). My brother (not a fan)
whom I asked to come along with me, had to laugh when Robin put his thumbs
up after every single song. Robin also shook the hands of the people on the
front rows quite a few times after the more succesful numbers. It made me
think why he still does this concerts. It's hard to really decide. It's
somewhere between promoting the legacy, wanting to keep moving, loving the
attention, doing what he has done his whole life, enjoying himself and
connecting with the fans.
Next was "If I can't have you". This was one of the lesser performances.
Song not suited for this voice (or the other way around) but also, the band
failed to capture the disco/r&b sound of the original. Just as the Bee Gees
band from the late 80s on, this band is more adept in playing rock/pop/folk
than disco/funk/r&b. Example: "Saved by the Bell". Both sounded just great,
Robin and the band. I could not suppress some goosebumps.
Alan Freeman on the air (BBC, 1968)
After "How deep is your love" came the most inspired performance of the
night: "Alan Freeman Days". www.youtube.com
The band really rocked on that song. Hearing
that song in between all the golden oldies, I had to admit it has all the
hooks, melody and power of those classics, yet it's also very personal
(which might not always be the case with the big hits). So, a very pleasant
surprise. The audience reacted quite positive to this (for most people)
completely unknown song. So, why not put in a few more of the lesser known,
contemporary songs, like "Deja vu" or "Embrace"?
After "New York Mining Disaster 1941" - good performance, even without the
brotherly harmonies - came "Heartbreaker" which really missed the acoustic
around-the-mike approach. But I did like the... sound of the keyboards. It
perfectly matched that early 80s synthesizer sound that's on the original
Dionne Warwick recording. The keyboard player is important to the sound of
this band. He actually plays two keyboards and is able to switch between all
kinds of different sounds, recreating some of the multi-layeredness (new
word) of the original recordings and adding some new ideas too. On "Stayin Alive" for instance he played the string section on one keyboard and the
brass section on the other (at the same time). On "Juliet" he added a
dynamic fast played piano part to the chorus.
"Massachusetts" and "Gotta get a message to you", again, sounded just great,
the audience was now really getting warmed up, with more and more people
standing on their feet. This also has something to do with the fact they you
get big sing-a-long hit after big sing-a-long hit poured out on you. No-one
can stay immune to that I guess. It's what happened with the Bee Gees
concerts and it's what happened here with Robin solo.
"Night Fever" added to the excitement. What they do with songs like this, is
that I think they give the main female backing vocalist (Amalia Gueorguieva)
a little bit more eh... volume. Robin just sings along the song but the
focus is really on the total sound of the song, which at least to the
public, sounds convincing enough to get them on their feet. If Robin would
only do songs like these, then the concert would have been nothing more than
listening to a coverband with one original member of the Bee Gees. But at
any rate, it sounded a lot better than the Frankfurt album.
With "Too much heaven" Robin didn't seem to be able to decide which part of
the multipart harmonies to pick so he sounded unsure there. "To Love Somebody" on the other hand, is an example of a Barry song which he can do
very naturally himself. The audience stood up and stayed up for the next
song, which I think was the biggest hit of the concert. Strangely enough it
was Robin's version of... "Islands in the Stream". Not the 2001 version he
made with Maurice for "The Record" but more like the 1997 "One Night Only"
version. The band made a mid-tempo rocker out of it, Robin sang it well and
everybody sung along.
Next was "Words", again a Barry song that Robin can do well. "Woman in Love"
(the chorus being changed to "You are a woman in love") on the other hand
didn't sound too hot. After "Juliet", which sounds it was made for concerts,
came "You Should be Dancing". In the hands of this band, this is more a hard
rock track than a dance track. It sounds impressive but there is not much
soul in it. The same goes for the three encores: "Jive Talkin", "Stayin Alive" and "Tragedy". Big rocking sound, everybody on their feet, backing
vocals on the fore, but to me, not the highlight on the evening.
So, is a Bee Gees concert better than a Robin Gibb concert? Definitely.
You're missing Barry on the lead, the three-part harmonies, the three
brothers on stage. Is a Robin Gibb concert a total failure? Definitely not.
He still has the voice, sings his own songs well and occasionally surprises
originally sung by Barry. Could his concerts be better? Yes, leave out a few
songs that Robin is not able to sing convincingly and put it some more
lesser known (old or new) Robin songs. Should some fans stop whining and at
least visit one of his concerts? I would say yes ;-).
(1) Later a fan told me they played and sung parts of "Chain Reaction", so
it was a Gibb song after all!