A Rare Tribute
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It is not known how many tribute acts there are in the universe, but it is probably safe to say that there is no pressing need in the cosmos for any more bands that pay tribute to Led Zeppelin, AC/DC or Pink Floyd.
Every so often, however, an act comes along that has made an atypical tribute choice and mimics that progenitor with aplomb.
Enter Stayin’ Alive.
Stayin Alive, a decade-old Canadian tribute band that perform exacting recreations of songs made famous by the Bee Gees, appear August 20 at Foellinger Theatre.
Even though the name of the band refers to the Bee Gees’ first disco era hit, Stayin’ Alive perform music from the Bee Gees’ entire career, including the pre-disco years when everybody thought they were the Beatles in disguise.
“Basically we start off the show with more of the disco stuff,” band member Todd Sharman said in a phone interview. “And we sort of pepper in some of the mid-70s hits. And then we kind of get into the 80s a little bit.”
Sharman, who assays the role of Robin Gibb, said that the band was the brainchild of Tony Mattina, who plays Barry Gibb.
“He had always been a backup vocalist,” Sharman said, “and he had always done high harmony stuff and falsetto stuff. He was a huge Bee Gees fan to begin with and he thought, ‘No one’s doing this.'”
One of the reasons there aren’t a lot of Bee Gees tribute acts out there, Sharman said, is that it’s “kind of a specialized thing that not everybody can pull off.”
There was a lot of trial and error involved in getting the harmonies nailed down, he said. But that was only part of the battle.
“We made a point of always carrying our own sound technician,” Sharman said. “He knows who is singing what and what the blends are. A lot of the sound the Bee Gees created was about the blending of their voices. And that’s the hardest part.”
Sharman said he has some lead vocals in the show, but it’s all in the group’s pre-disco songs. Robin Gibb’s quavering, emotion-packed voice took a backseat to his brother Barry’s falsetto which dominated during the disco period.
“Barry had that signature falsetto voice that worked very well in that timeframe,” he said.
Both Robin Gibb and Maurice Gibb are no longer among the living, which means a talented tribute act is the closest that young folks will get to experiencing the band.
Their concerts draw multi-generational audiences.
“It’s quite a range of people,” he said. “I mean, typically, you see a lot of people who were probably in their 20s in the 70s. So you get a lot of people who are now in their 60s and up. But you also get people who are in their 20s and younger, like young kids: ‘My parents always play this stuff. I grew up with this music. I am a huge fan of the Bee Gees.'”
It’s a testament to the fact that the Bee Gees were great songwriters, he said.
“They’ve stood the test of time,” Sharman said.
Stayin’ Alive look to be standing the test of time as well.
“I had no idea that we’d be able to do this for 10 years,” Sharman said. “It has really strong legs and just seems to keep going.”