Proclaiming to be "the No. 1 Heavy Metal Tribute to the Bee Gees in the Tri-State Area, eastern Pennsylvania, New England (excluding Rohde Island, Maine and New Hampshire), Los Angeles City, Anaheim City, Tampa City, Texas (excluding Ft. Worth City and Corpus Christie City), The Rocky Mountains, and the United Kingdom (excluding Northern Ireland and the greater Leeds City area)", Tragedy are, in actual fact, at least to my knowledge, the world's only metal tribute to the Bee Gees. On the surface, 70s disco pop and metal would seem to be mismatched genres but the amalgamated pastiche forged by the talented musicians who comprise this most unique (and uniquely batty) of tribute acts works a treat. And tonight, right at the end of May, Tragedy bring their entertaining combination of gaudy showmanship and retro-fusion to Liverpool's Academy 2.
With a short set by Johnny Headband opening the night (a synth-heavy disco/funked-up New Wave outfit featuring Electric Six's Smorgasbord in their ranks), no more than six people stand against the barrier with half a dozen more scattered around the venue. Signs are not favourable for tonight's headliners and I can't help but wonder whether Tragedy's metalised Bee Gees has proven to be an ephemerally popular parody whose novelty value has finally expired. After all, this is the Americans' sixth tour of the UK since their inception in 2007. My initial thoughts prove unfounded - seemingly, Bee Gees metal is still a thriving venture as a few minutes before they hit the stage, the Academy suddenly fills up with a plethora of bodies in what must be an attendance verging on 200. That's great news for Glibb, Gibbens, Gibbous, Gibbeth and Peterson but obviously a tad disappointing for Johnny Headband that only a small fraction of ticket holders bothered to show up earlier in the evening.
Members of Tragedy appear at 9pm prompt as the stage becomes a spectacle of spandex, glitter and glam through an effusion of colourful seventies kitsch, and they commence their set with two Bee Gees classics, 'Tragedy' and 'Jive Talkin''. Metal riffery and a generally heavier delivery (along with a bit of percussive cowbell!?!) have been weaved seamlessly into the core melodies originally penned by the Brothers Gibb as they make the metal/disco-pop fusion sound effortless. It's as if the marriage of these two genres is some sort of coital destiny. Not exclusively Bee Gees in their repertoire, 'Grease' is up next, although written by Barry Gibb, the sole surviving brother after the sad passing of Robin just ten days ago, there's still a link. In a similar vein, Kenny Rogers/Dolly Parton hit and Bee Gees composition 'Islands in the Stream' follows before Tragedy return to Brothers Gibb good and proper with 'Night Fever', the latter inciting a fusion pit of dancing/moshing, and a few confused peeps unsure how to move so seem to opt for a cunning dance/mosh amalgam. Whilst that might look a tad ridiculous within the "normal" world, a Tragedy show thrives on the ludicrous and is ultimately about anti-repressive fun so, tonight, in the land of the Lambanana, ridiculous it is not. With many present roused by bastardised John Travolta moves, well-timed versions of Leo Sayer and Abba classics 'You Make Me Feel Like Dancing' and 'Dancing Queen' are next, prompting yet more absurd dancing, before a trio of Bee Gees hits close Tragedy's pre-encore set - 'You Should Be Dancing'; 'How Deep Is Your Love' and 'Stayin' Alive'. But the craziness is not over yet. Tragedy disappear, then re-emerge for their takes on Donna Summer's 'Hot Stuff' and Bonnie Tyler's early 80s hit 'Total Eclipse of the Heart', for which "seven girls" are invited onto the stage before they commence. Seemingly short on takers, Robin Gibbens prowls through the audience to hand-pick semi-reluctant young ladies and a couple of blokes also end up stood on stage amidst the pop/metal cacophony.
Tragedy's set has been eighty minutes of unadulterated metal merriment. Never a dull moment during such time, beyond the music, these Bee Gees loving nutters are truly demented showmen that also managed to squeeze in, amongst other absurd sights, guitar cunnilingus (it's almost as if they opted for Flying Vs for such antics), the exclamation that stagehand and general dogsbody Lance got laid on two consecutive nights during the tour which engenders impromptu "HIV...HIV...HIV..." crowd chants and sporadic ejaculations of glitter onto an (un)suspecting audience. Oh, and randomly, drummer The Lord Gibbeth is thoroughly black metal in both visage and pseudonym (although there are no blast-beats tonight). All in all, amazingly good fun.
Wednesday 30th May 2012
Academy 2 in Liverpool, UK
Review & Photography by Mark Holmes
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Tragedy at the Academy 2, Liverpool, UK, 30th May 2012
Photograph copyright © 2012 Mark Holmes - www.metal-discovery.com