Disco mojo revived at Bee Gees tribute show

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Catch Saturday Night Fever six nights a week with the Australian Bee Gees.

Why do we love to loathe what we love? That would be—brace for it—“disco” (GASP!), which long ago assumed a pop-cultural toxicity even though millions embraced it, only to rename it “dance music” to spare later generations some silly taint. Once upon a Do-the-Hustle! time, this columnist disavowed the soundtrack of his teen-plus years. Apologies are over. (Put that in your bong and smoke it in your powder-blue leisure suit.) Disco was the sensual backbeat of a pleasure-loving (anything wrong with that?) era.

Throbbin’ memories—plus a tinge of sadness—inspired a visit to the 75-minute Australian Bee Gees show at Excalibur’s Thunder From Down Under Showroom (7 p.m. Tue-Sun, $45-$55), after Robin Gibb and Donna Summer succumbed to cancer recently. (Maurice Gibb died in 2003). Seeking a musical time warp, you could do better technically, but not nostalgically than this exceedingly noisy but genuinely loving tribute-band blast.

Our faux Bee Gees are more or less look-alikes—more for David Scott (Robin) and Wayne Hosking (Maurice), less for Michael Clift (Barry), who sometimes (understandably) strains for that bro’s scrape-it-off-the-ceiling falsetto.

Acoustically, this joint could give you an ear bleed. Pounding beat and screaming vocals of Saturday Night Fever-era Bee Gees notwithstanding, you could mostly discern their lyrics. Here? Drowned in a cacophonous garble. Who cares, though, as long as you can make out the “A-HA-HA-HA” of “Stayin’ Alive”? Melody, harmony and sexualized rhythm—that’s all that matters and that’s all here.

Lots from the ’70s: “Night Fever,” “Nights on Broadway,” “Stayin’ Alive,” “Tragedy,” “More Than a Woman,” “Emotion,” “Guilty.” Lots from the ’60s: “Gotta Get a Message to You,” “To Love Somebody,” “Lonely Days,” “I Started a Joke” (eerie when Scott’s Robin sings, “I finally died, which started the whole world living”). Climax? Whaddaya think? “You Should Be Dancing.” Audience members ecstatically obey in a small “club” space at the corner of the stage.

Decibel levels distort some songs and musical sloppiness mars them in spots, but technical quibbles can’t topple infectious enthusiasm. Generosity of spirit spills off the stage. Charmingly chatty between tunes, the guys engage the room, relishing the esprit de disco—especially Hosking’s impish Maurice.

Hangin’ with the Australian Bee Gees is a boogie blast because audience and musicians jointly create the vibe. No need to win over the crowd—they’re eager to be conquered. You bring memories, they bring impersonations, everyone meets in the middle. Which is where You Should Be Dancing (Your Ass Off).

NOSHING ON NOTES: Returning for his monthly go-round, Clint Holmes plays The Smith Center’s Cabaret Jazz room June 1-3. Classy and creative—choosing songs that hang together thematically, assembling entertaining medleys—he’s a treat and a fine ambassador for our new cultural hub. … Also recommended: David Brenner at the Suncoast on June 9-10, funneling news of the day through his clever sensibilities, in that South Philly honk. Constantly I forget how funny he is. Constantly I am reminded.

STRIP POSTSCRIPT: Browsing an Excalibur gift shop turned up Las Vegas Salt Water Taffy. Notice an ocean nearby? MGM Grand’s saltwater pools don’t qualify unless the undertow can carry you to Sausalito.

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