‘One Night Only’: How The Bee Gees’ Las Vegas Show Became A Global Sensation

Fans who came to see Barry, Maurice and Robin Gibb at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas on November 14, 1997 knew they were in for something special. The unique concert, intended at one point to be the Bee Gees’ live farewell (it was released as the live album One Night Only), featured hits from what was already an incredible four-decade span of classic songs, as well as a guest appearance by Céline Dion, and a tribute to their departed brother Andy.

Recorded for audio and video release, One Night Only appeared as a highlights CD and a DVD of the complete performance, following a pay-per-view US screening on New Year’s Eve 1987. Released on September 7, 1998, the album went on to earn platinum and multi-platinum sales around the world. Once again, night fever was spreading swiftly, 30 years since the group’s first international breakthrough.

A career-spanning performance
The Bee Gees performed no fewer than 32 songs that night in Nevada, in a set that reached all the way back to staples of their early worldwide fame such as “New York Mining Disaster 1941,” “Massachusetts,” “To Love Somebody,” and “Words.” Hits of the early 70s featured, too, such as “Lonely Days,” “How Can You Mend A Broken Heart,” and “Run To Me.” They were joined by Bee Gees’ many smashes of the disco era, including “Jive Talkin’,” “Stayin’ Alive,” and, both to open and close the show, “You Should Be Dancing.”

Plenty of attention was given to their own versions of songs that the three prolific songwriters gave to others, such as “Heartbreaker” (Dionne Warwick), “Islands In The Stream” (Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton), “More Than A Woman,” (Tavares) and Barry’s duet with Barbra Streisand, “Guilty.”

Along the way, the Bee Gees acknowledged later group favourites such as “Alone” and “One”; welcomed Céline Dion on stage for her soon-to-be hit that they wrote, “Immortality”; and let the recorded voice of Frankie Valli ring out as they recreated another of their movie million-sellers, “Grease.” All that with one of the Grease film’s stars, Olivia Newton-John, sitting admiringly in the audience.

An intense period
With huge poignancy, the concert also had them singing one of Andy’s hits, “(Our Love) Don’t Throw It All Away,” written by Barry with Blue Weaver. The voice of their little brother, who died in 1988, at the age of 30, was heard on the second verse, and a packed arena mourned with the three siblings on stage.

The show took place during an intense period for the Gibb brothers, a few months after the release of their 21st studio album, Still Waters, and their induction into the Rock And Roll Hall Of Fame, among other honours. Still Waters gave them some new signature tunes, notably the aforementioned “Alone,” which made the Top 10 in many countries, and the subsequent UK Top 20 entries “I Could Not Love You More” and “Still Waters (Run Deep).” They performed the latter song on a stop at The Late Show With David Letterman in September 1987.

As the album and DVD of One Night Only emerged, what had started as a one-off farewell concert turned into a major tour. Beginning at RDS Arena in Dublin, on August 29, 1998, it then took them, in release week, to London’s Wembley Stadium and to similarly vast ventures in Buenos Aires and Pretoria. The following March brought shows in familiar territory to the Australian-raised siblings, in Auckland and Sydney.

Driving each other
“We had four Lifetime Achievement Awards in three months, from the World Music Awards to our induction in the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame,” Maurice told Johnny Black in Mojo of the season of recognition that preceded the Las Vegas concert. “I mean, that’s quite weird. It just started turning around, and people started listening. So when the One Night Only live shows came out in 1998, there was incredible interest.”

That was underlined as the album commemorating their night in Las Vegas made No.1 in Australia and New Zealand, No.4 in the UK and the Top 5 in many other territories. One Night Only stands as the prime document of a group sharing their unmatched fraternal bond and creativity in front of scores of thousands of fans, and then millions more on record.

“We’re all boss of this band at one time or another,” said Barry in the Mojo interview. “If I get really dogged about something and I don’t want to do it and everyone else does, my wife Linda will turn around and say, ‘Get your pants on and go and bloody do it and shut up moaning.’

“In fact, all the Bee Gee wives are good like that,” he went on. “They have no time for our egos. They’ll say, ‘This is that showbiz ego thing – get rid of it, act your age.’ So we’re like that with each other, as brothers. We drive each other.”

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