Siblings in spirit on stage

By Roger Moroney


Just before 9am yesterday the phone rang and reporter Roger Moroney picked it up to hear "Hello, it's Barry here ... Barry Gibb."


With a "How's it goin' mate?" reply, they chat about a special event at the Mission next February.

"Oh I've heard all about it," Barry Gibb said down the line from his home in Florida.

"The winery, the great outdoor ... and it's really grown in reputation over the years. I'm really looking forward to it," he said, adding he was also looking forward to seeing as much of the Bay as time allowed.

"New Zealand is such a beautiful place."

The concert is already stacking up to be one of the more memorable events in the Mission Concert's 21-year history.

"When I turn around on stage I'll see them there - Maurice and Robin - they're always there," Barry said.

"For me it is a journey of reflection - it's a celebration of my brothers and I can promise everyone who will be there that it will be a very, very special show."

Maurice died in 2003 and Robin just four months ago. The youngest Gibb, Andy, died in 1988.

It will be emotional, Barry said, but it will also be effervescent and visual.

This big screens will provide a unique glimpse at the musical voyage through life of all four Gibb boys.

There were times, like typical brothers, that they fell out, and it is to his regret that things had not been the best between him and Robin, and Maurice, at the times they died.

Music, and being able to celebrate their lives with him on stage, had helped the healing.

"We all had our troubles but hey, we had some very special moments and we are going to take you through all that - it will be very visual, very special."

He said there were times he struggled to hold his emotions in check, but music, and the support of his own, and extended family, bolstered him.

"You know, I never cried at Robin's funeral but I broke down about a month ago when I was doing an interview and they played an early film of us. It all came out then."

With four months to go before he embarks on his three Australian "Mythology Tour" concerts, and the sole New Zealand event which the Mission is hosting on February 23, the set list and format was still being worked through.

"I can't exactly say what will be in and what will be out but put it this way, we'll be covering all the bases. I think people are going to be pretty happy with what they get."

Spicks and Specks ... First of May? I asked.

"Yeah, maybe, we'll see," he laughed.

He had created an initial performance schedule which ran to about 90 minutes.

"But we'll be stretching that out."

One thing he was excited about was the power and performance of the 12-piece band and singers he will bring to the Mission.

Among them is his son Stephen who plays lead guitar.

"He's an excellent player and you won't miss him - he's a metal head, covered in tatts," he laughed.

His niece, Maurice's daughter Samantha, is among the back-up singers, and has sung an emotional How Do You Mend a Broken heart with her uncle at concerts in the past.

Other members of the family will be with him, on sound and stage duties.

"A whole mass of Gibbs."

Family has always been strong.

It goes back to the early years when there were often impromptu "sing-alongs" taking place.

"Although Robin never took part. If we started having a singalong he'd say 'gotta go'."

Barry Gibb is the second most successful songwriter in pop history - after Paul McCartney - and he has created a back catalogue of hits which is simply astonishing.

Songwriting "just happened", he said.

"It's not something you consciously do."

He'd get tunes and ideas, and whole songs, in the middle of the night and sing them into a Dictaphone he kept by the bed.

You Win Again ... that came to me at 4 in the morning."

He then laughed and brought up what he'd told me earlier, that he liked a good sake as a drink.

"I'd sing something into the Dictaphone, wake up the next morning, play it and think 'oh, too much sake', and erase it."

The song he is most proud of?

He is especially proud of Immortality, which was sung by Celine Dion

There were plenty of songs he wishes he had written, one of them by the equally remarkable singer-songwriter who will open the Mission Concert - Carole King.

It Might As Well Rain Until September, I'd love to have written that.

"We've never met but I'm a huge fan of Carole King."

Would they perhaps do a duet on the big night?

"Oh I think I'd faint," Barry said.

On the upcoming tour downunder he was looking forward to returning to Redcliffe in Queensland, where they boys grew up after the family emigrated from England.

"We grew up with a lot of the Maori showbands who were over there in Surfers. Prince Tui Teka ... lots of beautiful memories."

One thing audiences had experienced, and reported on line earlier this year, was that the "voice" was still strong and unmistakably "Bee Gees."

"My voice has always been good to me. I stopped smoking about 15 years ago and since I stopped it has just got stronger.

"I'm looking after myself," he said.

"I feel good."

And his Mission audience was going to get "something special ... I promise you that. You have my word."

- Hawkes Bay Today

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