Freed of the constraints placed on him by a new album (the promotion of which so often capsizes a show by a living legend), pop's finest countertenor, his staccato falsetto in tip-top shape, guided the audience on a generous 21/4-hour trip through a catalog so vast and varied that the perfectly pitched 31-song set list could satisfy not only those who attended just to hear songs from "the Fever period," as Gibb tellingly referred to the mid-'70s, but purists, too.
The eight-piece band - three electric guitars, two keyboards (all those string and horn parts to cover, let alone Maurice's synths!) - offered taut, sinewy arrangements. The potential problem was that the Bee Gees were all about harmonies. Would Barry's now be a lost, lonely voice in the wilderness? The solution, elegance itself, was to keep it in the family: Maurice's daughter, Sami, and Barry's son, Steve (who also played lead guitar). Remaining harmonies were shared among three backing singers, one of whom, Beth Cohen, stepped in for both Barbra Streisand (on "Guilty" with "Woman in Love") and Dolly Parton (on "Islands in the Stream"). In one instance, Robin Gibb himself popped up on a video screen and assumed the vocals on "I Started a Joke," a rare example of this kind of haunting done well.
The tour's subtitle is "In Honor of His Brothers and a Lifetime in Music," and Gibb didn't spare us the hits he wrote for others, including Parton, Diana Ross, Celine Dion, and his own brother Andy, who died in 1988. He even played Bruce Springsteen's "I'm on Fire," repaying the Boss (whom he mentioned he had never met) for recent live versions of "Staying Alive."
The stage banter was charming, occasionally very moving, and included the brilliantly casual "Here's one!" before the 1989 hit "One," itself a stupendous rewrite of "Jive Talkin'." The audience stood for the Saturday Night Fever songs and sat for the rest. Your 48-year-old reviewer was delighted to lower the average age considerably.
It's safe to say that someone who calls his tour the "Mythology Tour," who finishes the main set with "Immortality," and then triumphantly sends the audience home with "Tragedy," is comfortable with his status as a legend. This is as it should be, and the show reminded me of Leonard Cohen's: These are men with nothing to prove. The only thing that has eluded Barry Gibb is the serious critical acclaim so rarely granted pop acts of the Bee Gees' magnitude. That should change.
Wesley Stace is an accomplished musician and writer. His most recent album is "Self-Titled," and his most recent novel is "Wonderkid."