Tuesday, October 11, 2011

Robin Gibb In Concert With The Danish National Concert Orchestra

(Eagle Vision)  (Guest Review by Gregg Turkington) In the aftermath of the (likely permanent) Bee Gees hiatus brought on by the death of the great Maurice Gibb, relations between Barry and Robin have reportedly been a little strained. Robin’s dirty little secret—either to avoid the wrath of Barry, or to avoid the wrath of discerning critics—has been a series of “stealth” solo concerts in which he brings the hits of the Bee Gees to places like Germany, Denmark, and Malaysia, ignoring key markets such as the USA and UK entirely. American and British fans of Robin’s mind-blowing solo album Robin’s Reign and the Bee Gees in general were left wondering what exactly these shows were all about, with each posting of more remote tour dates only confirming hunches that they would remain elusive. The worldwide release of a pair of live DVDs from this series of shows has answered our questions, and not in a good way. The first one, Robin Gibb with the Frankfurt Neue Philharmonic Orchestra, presented Robin uncomfortably leading a large group of competent musicians through a set-list that concentrated on Bee Gees songs on which he was not the lead vocalist. Thus, Barry’s trademark falsetto leads on hits like “Stayin’ Alive”  and “Night Fever” were missing, replaced with Robin calmly singing lead in a completely different style. While an alternate lead vocal by Robin might have been interesting in the studio at the time these classic songs were originally recorded, it proves far less interesting when he’s nervously singing to new, updated (i.e., not good) arrangements. If your idea of a good time would be watching Paul McCartney sing “Imagine,” this scenario will be right up your alley.  The second DVD to come out of this peculiar situation is 2011’s Robin Gibb In Concert With The Danish National Concert Orchestra, and it in no way rights the wrongs of the first one. While the set list is mostly different, and the concert takes place outdoors during the day, instead of indoors at night, otherwise we’re stuck with the same troublesome product. Both DVDs feature generic “televised concert” style direction, with sweeping cranes and too many banal close-ups of French horn players and grey-haired concertgoers. To further remove any potential luster, the disc's editor was careless about avoiding the scenes where Robin is clearly reading lyrics from his teleprompter on the stage floor. The breezy, bland arrangements take the punch out of the songs, and while Robin’s voice is still intact (as evidenced on “I Started A Joke” and “I’ve Gotta Get A Message To You,” songs in which he was the original lead vocalist), his judgment is not (as evidenced by opening the show with “More Than A Woman”, a Barry-centric song in which Robin’s far less dynamic lead vocal proves painfully deficient.) Backed by a hacky band and a local pick-up orchestra, and with a trio of generic European female session singers inadequately replicating the magic of the Gibb vocal blend, Robin looks like the loneliest man in the world as he goes through the motions on the big festival stage. All complaints about this “no thrills” home-viewing experience aside, if the Robin Gibb concert experience were to venture into these United States, would I buy a ticket? You bet I would. Front row! Desperate.

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