I was busy shopping for the latest CDs and videos at HMV in Hong
Kong when my phone rang. It was Jojo San Pedro asking me to rush to
the Grand Hyatt Hotel for a once in a lifetime opportunity to meet one
of my musical heroes, Robin Gibb. Jojo is the Asian promoter of Robin
Gibb’s Magnetic Tour. Without hesitation, I dropped my shopping
basket and hailed a cab.
Flashback to October
1974, Cultural Center of the Philippines. My first time to see
Robin was when he performed with brothers Barry and Maurice at the CCP
in 1974. They were then on an Asian tour to promote their album
Eversince the three
Gibb brothers started recording in the early ‘60s, Robin had already
been the main soloist. Barry sang solo on occasion and Maurice (may he
rest in peace) always provided lush harmonies. The Ambivalent Crowd,
then one of the top showbands, provided the opening act for the Bee
Gees’ first and only concert in the Philippines. They sang over an
hour’s worth of hits and new materials. It was a fun concert and
there were lots of laughs mostly provided by the comic of the group,
After the Asian tour,
the group got its second wind and began climbing back to the charts
with more top ten singles. By 1977, their success reached fever pitch
with the sound track of "Saturday Night Fever." With this,
the Bee Gees had finally arrived and had made a permanent dent in the
music industry! This also ushered the era of Barry Gibb singing lead
vocals on almost all their new releases.
Although they have
been around for four decades now, the Bee Gees have actually done only
15 tours (the first 12 lasted for months — the last three were solo
concerts). In the late ‘80s, Barry was diagnosed with a severe back
problem and crippling arthritis that made it difficult for him to sing
or play an instrument. It was the reason why the trio had very few
gigs in the past decade.
The last time the
three brothers performed as a group was in Miami, Florida on Feb. 23,
2002. Eleven months later, Maurice passed away.
Just as I adore the
Beatles who were the early idols of the Bee Gees, I’ve always had
the Bee Gees in my top five Must-See-In-My-Lifetime favorite groups of
In May of 1999, I
bought a ticket to their final "One Night Only" concert in
Sydney, Australia — an expensive adventure indeed. But, I didn’t
care because this was an ultra rare event I’ve always dreamt of.
Alas my luck! The
flight got delayed and I arrived in Sydney after the concert. The
fiasco went down as one of my life’s most regrettable events and I
swore that I will never let the next opportunity to watch the Bee Gees
get away again.
My hopes faded when
Maurice passed away and Barry announced that as a respect to Maurice,
there would not be Bee Gees concerts or new material anymore.
Yet, two years later,
Robin announced the "2005 Magnetic World Tour." This, I said
to myself, I would not miss even if it was just one Bee Gee
CLOSE ENCOUNTERS OF
THE ROBIN KIND
I was expecting
hordes of press people at the presidential suite of the Grand Hyatt
Hong Kong considering the battery of cameramen and reporters waiting
for Robin at the hotel lobby entrance. But I was pleasantly surprised
to find just a pair from Channel News Asia.
Robin walked in 10
minutes later sans any fanfare, with a dark shirt, dark glasses and a
baseball cap on. Reed thin but looking healthy, Robin smiled and sat
But the more
interesting was the off-camera Robin. He talked about his personal
life and the agony of getting over his twin Maurice’s death.
Although they were not the typical inseparable twins who wore the same
outfit and lived together, Robin quipped not a day passed by without
him missing Maurice. Here he got misty eyed.
There are no
immediate plans for him and Barry to record or tour, Robin revealed.
Barry is currently busy producing Barbra Streisand’s next album,
after doing for the diva her five time-platinum certified album
"Guilty" in 1980.
was very satisfied with his Asian tour that kicked off in Hongkong on
June 8. It has been extended to September with the addition of shows
in Tokyo and China. I asked him if he remembers their one-night
concert in Manila to which he replied ""Of course, I
THE REAL ROBIN
The concert was at 8
p.m. but as of 6:30 p.m., I still didn’t have the tickets Jojo San
Pedro reserved for us. Panic began to dawn. It was Sydney all over
again. Composer Nonoy Tan, an avid Bee Gees fan who flew with me
discouraged me from purchasing tickets at a hair-raising price. Pinoys
who are used to R200 for the cheapest and
R3000 for the most expensive tickets will be aghast to know that the
cheapest seats for the Robin Gibb concert were around R4,200.
I didn’t even
bother to ask the price of the most expensive tickets. I was
unperturbed by the cost and we rushed to the Hongkong Convention and
Exhibition Center. I shelled my hard earned money from the Cascades
concert and flew the seven escalators (yes seven) to get to Hall 3
where the show was about to begin.
The 10,000 capacity
hall was 70 percent filled. The lights dimmed and the orchestra
started playing a Bee Gees overture. With the first notes of "Emotion,"
Robin cavorted onstage in a natty canary yellow jacket and an
almost reddish hairpiece ala Elton John. I’ve gotten so used to
Samantha Sang’s version and lately to Destiny’s Child’s that I
felt a little weird hearing Robin perform it.
Then he followed it
with a true Robin Gibb song "Gotta Get A Message To You"
which he sang at a lower key.
"How Deep Is
Your Love" sounded
different because Barry sang the lead vocals on the recording. It was
at a lower key again but nobody cared. The crowd started to sing
I noticed how good
the acoustics of the venue were when the orchestra got into "Nights
on Broadway." The bass thumps were solid and cymbal crashes
were crystal clear despite our seats at the rear of the hall.
The real Robin sound
manifested when he sang the ‘68 smash "I Started A
Joke" complete with the melancholy feel. With "Massachussets,"
How Can You Mend A Broken Heart," and I was lulled back to
the 70s when I still had long lush hair and wore size 29 jeans.
My reminiscing got
interrupted when the orchestra segued to the song that defined the
disco era -"Night Fever." People started swaying and
dancing while the artist kept his movements to the minimum.
Other hits performed
were "New York Mining Disaster," one of the group’s
earliest hits; "Please", a song released in 2002 and
was sung mainly by Errol Reid, Robin’s only male back-up singer who
sounded uncannily like Barry and Robin providing harmony; and "Saved
By The Bell," his first solo hit when the Bee Gees went on
hiatus in the late ‘60s.
In 1967, the Bee Gees
were commissioned to write a song for Otis Redding. But on the week
Otis was to record it, he died in a plane crash and the Bee Gees were
left with no alternative but to sing it. The song was "To Love
Somebody" and it was another top ten hit single.
As he started singing
the opening lines of the 1969 hit "First of May" and
"Words" , the crowd became all the more anxious. I
didn’t realize how great this song ‘You Win Again,"
was until I heard it sung live. I wrote down a little reminder for me
to buy the CD. "Juliet" got the crowd stomping. The part
where he sang "JuJuJuliet" reminded me of their earlier hit
‘JijiJive Talkin" and the "JajajaJamby" election
jingle of Senator Jamby Madrigal.
NO AGE BOUNDS
Robin said that their
music knows no age bounds. Even young artists today are recording
their music. In fact, he performed a Steps-revived song "Tragedy,"
ending the great show.
But the crowd would
not let him go and he obliged with "Jive Talkin" and "Stayin’
Alive." The crowd danced and sashayed, already on their feet
a la Travolta by the time Robin performed "You Should Be
By this time, Robin
was not prepared for a third encore and so just did "Stayin’
Alive" once again. It was like a big disco and the only thing
lacking was a mirror ball. There was another encore and he repeated
Witnessing all of
these, I wish that I or any local promoter could bring the Robin Gibb
concert to the Philippines. Like Paul McCartney, Robin is one of the
very few superstars who will retire from the limelight in a few years.
He and his siblings have brought us great music, becoming an integral
part of our musical upbringing. It would be a crime if he didn’t
perform in the music capital of Asia.
Jimmy Lo, the guy
responsible for bankrolling the multi-million Robin Gibb Magnetic Tour
of Asia laments that the Philippines is the only stop in Asia were
Robin won’t set foot on. My retort with a sigh of regret is the
feasibility factor of the project. Sadly, unless a sponsor subsidizes
part of the cost of the talent fee, we Filipinos will only get to hear
Robin on CD.