I’ve gotta get a message to you.
The A&E Network has an interesting program concept it calls “Live By Request.” It lines up a popular music star or group and has them perform before a small audience, broadcasting the event live on television. Viewers are free to phone or email in their requests. With an on-screen host to moderate the proceedings over a two-hour period, one usually manages to see and hear most of the star or group’s top songs. Past participants during the five-plus years that the show has been in existence have included the Eurythmics, k.d.lang, James Taylor, Don Henley, Willie Nelson, Loretta Lynn, and most recently Elton John.
Last April, the “Live By Request” format featured the appearance of the Bee Gees, only days after the release of their most recent album “This Is Where I Came In.” Image Entertainment has now released a DVD version of the program that will be appreciated by all the group’s fans.
On April 27, 2001 at the Manhattan Center in New York City, the Bee Gees appeared on A&E’s “Live By Request.” Stripped of the live TV show’s commercials, the Bee Gees provide 90 minutes of entertainment during which they sing 14 songs plus a medley of eight other hits. Five of the 14 are taken from their new album, while the rest are all recognizable hits from the group’s 35-odd years of playing together.
Bee Gees: Live By Request is super entertainment whether you’re a long-time Bee Gees fan or a novice wondering what the group’s all about. Of course, the Bee Gees have an impressive list of hits and they’re well represented here, but equally as enjoyable is hearing the material from their new album. These guys have a tremendous sense of rhythm and a great ear for lyrics, as they continue to demonstrate with “This Is Where I Came In” and “Man in the Middle” from that album. The comfort level the group has with the new material is very evident from the ease with which they present it and the pleasure that they communicate in doing so.
That’s not completely the case with the older hits. The pleasure is definitely there, but the technique isn’t always. As anyone familiar with the Bee Gees knows, Barry Gibb with his breathy falsetto was always a distinct part of the group’s sound and many of their earlier hits in the 1970s are readily identifiable by it. Well, 25 years later, that falsetto isn’t quite what it used to be, and so when the group tries to sing their hits from that era, they can’t sound quite the same. Yet, the Bee Gees don’t shy away from those songs (such as “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart” or “How Deep Is Your Love”). They give it their best shot, and if it’s not quite as you remembered it, their honest, yet energetic approach makes up for any deficiency that the passage of time has caused. Certainly, the audience in New York didn’t mind and for sure, I didn’t either.
If there was one thing that disappointed me it was the apparent brevity of the show. Ninety minutes just seemed to disappear. They could easily have doubled that in order to get so many more of their hits in. Ah, well! For the record, here are the songs included in the show: “This Is Where I Came In,” “She Keeps On Coming,” Sacred Trust,” “Man in the Middle,” “Massachusetts,” “To Love Somebody,” I Started a Joke,” Jive Talkin’,” “How Can You Mend a Broken Heart,” “I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You,” “Wedding Day,” “Lonely Days,” “How Deep Is Your Love,” “You Should Be Dancing,” and a medley of “New York Mining Disaster,” “Run to Me,” “Too Much Heaven,” “Islands in the Stream,” “Holiday,” “Woman in Love,” “Guilty,” and “Nights on Broadway.”
Image’s DVD version of the show does the program full justice. The image is presented full frame at 1.33:1 as originally broadcast. For the vast majority of the time, it’s a sharp, crisp presentation with very good colour rendition. Blacks are deep and glossy and white are clean. Shadow detail is fine and edge enhancement is not a concern. There is the odd occasion where the focus lapses a little, but it’s a minor quibble. Great, but more importantly, how is the sound?
Image provides three tracks for us — DTS 5.1, Dolby Digital 2.0 Stereo, and Dolby Digital 5.1. I listened to the latter and it’s a knockout. This aggressive, fully-enveloping mix really places you right in the center of the music. You can turn the volume up on this one and be transported. All frequencies are delivered cleanly and distortion-free and there are some good bass workouts here.
This is entertainment, folks — great songs, great style, super music! Everyone at the performance had a great time from the look of things, and now Image’s fine DVD effort allows you to join in without having to wait for commercial pauses. Highly recommended.