In 1977 the film Saturday Night Fever starring John Travolta embodied the flavor of the late 70s disco-craze and with a soundtrack delivered by the Bee Gees, the remainder of the decade was their oyster, as the Brothers Gibb produced hit after hit after hit. But even before the disco-era, the Bee Gees produced a string of classic pop songs starting in the early 1960s. On March 30, AXS TV The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands will honor the music of the Bee Gees with Bee Gees Gold.
Recently, we spoke with John Acosta (Barry Gibb) via phone from his home in Las Vegas about the music of the Bee Gees which he so deeply identifies and his expectations for the live national performance. Here’s what he had to say.
AXS: Thank you for taking time to talk with me. You are in Las Vegas, right?
John Acosta: I came to Las Vegas three years ago from Toronto, Canada and my early beginnings with the Bee Gees, they go back to when I was a child and when I was about 10-years old seeing the movie Saturday Night Fever and taking in all the great music that the Bee Gees were writing at that time. It’s always been part of my repertoire, whatever I’m doing, as a solo artist or as a Latin artist.
AXS: So how long have you been performing as Barry Gibb?
JA: I had about eight years experience in Canada with another tribute band being Barry Gibb and when I looked at Las Vegas for better opportunities, I came here with the intention of starting my own Bee Gees tribute band and hitting California, the coast, and pretty much all the states that were out there in my reach from Las Vegas.
AXS: Was it easy for you to capture the vocals of Barry Gibb?
JA: I think that every singer, songwriter, artist, musician, early on will start to pick up on traits and imitate their idol. So around 10-years old I was singing “Stayin’ Alive” and without even knowing you’re forming your vocals. I was playing guitar at 10-years old and I knew every Beatle song and boy when “Night Fever” came out, it was like I could sing that range and then it formed my vocals into what it is today. You want people to close their eyes and say, I just heard the Bee Gees. There’s never going to be another Bee Gees and if you can pay respect and homage to those tones.
AXS: You said you discovered the music of the Bees Gees at 10-years old. Tell me about that.
JA: Around 1977 or so, after experiencing the “Fever” period, we then moved back to South America. I was born in Uruguay. The Bee Gees were huge in South America so all of a sudden I discovered a radio program that literally had every night the Beatles and Bee Gees hour. They would play all the 60s of the Bee Gees and I thought well what is this? The first time I heard “New York Mining Disaster” as we all did, is this the Bee Gees? Is this the Beatles? It was just incredible. I would listen and these Bee Gees songs would come on and they would blow me away at 10-11 years old. My ears were attuned so early on to great melodies, to great song structure.
AXS: I remember hearing “Nights on Broadway” for the first time and thinking this is incredible.
JA: I can’t believe you said “Nights on Broadway” because that was the first fusion for me and I remember that song when I heard it in Uruguay. I said it’s got Beatle harmonies but it’s got this funk groove. What is this? And you just couldn’t stop singing it.
AXS: The Bee Gees have a tremendous catalog. Do you do all the years? Early, early and disco era?
JA: Oh yeah. We start off with a nice medley with “New York Mining Disaster”, early, early stuff that sounds like the Beatles. And also I include the songs that they wrote for the other female artist Yvonne Elliman, Samantha Sang, and also the material of Andy Gibb. Those were tremendous songs. One after the other.
AXS: How did you find your Robin and Maurice?
JA: When I came to Las Vegas, the first thing I did was submit to the casinos, and I had a champion in the entertainment director of Station Casino’s, Judy Alberti. I approached her with intent to start a Bee Gees band but she hired me as a Latin trio. I was willing and thankful to get the opportunity and in the show I would do an acoustic Spanglish show and I would include the Bee Gees songs a little bit with the Latin rhythms. She loved the concept and one particular night I had to have a substitute drummer and his name was Darryl Borges and when I saw him and I knew he was a tremendous talent on the drums and singing. I said, “Dude you look like Robin Gibb. I’m starting a Bee Gees tribute here in Las Vegas, backed up by Station Casinos and I’d love for you to be my Robin Gibb. We started to build the buzz, and build the track record and the first shows were at the Station Casinos and they were sold out. And I started scouting around town for the other members of the band. It didn’t take long where I found a Maurice (Jeff Celentano) in another band. And that’s how the first lineup came about.
AXS: How did you find out about the AXS TV show The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands?
JA: Coming from Canada I did not know about this show. I put the live promo video of us online and in days I got agents calling me and wanting to book the band and also explaining that they were going to submit me and introduce me to this show called World’s Greatest Tribute Bands. A year later, out of the blue, I got phone call and it was Katie Daryl and she said, “You are spoken highly of through these two agents and I’m letting you know that you’re in the running”, and she explained to me how they took 100 bands and narrowed down to the best that go on television. And I was ecstatic. I let everybody know and I said in about 2 week’s time if Katie calls me then we’ve made it in. If I don’t get the call, we haven’t made it in. Two weeks later she called me and said, “Congratulations you made it and you’re playing at the Whisky a go go”. And my mouth dropped. I said, “Oh boy, I know about that venue”. I thought what a blessing, great, fantastic. Can’t wait for it.
AXS: How were you able to narrow down the songs to do on the show with the limited time?
JA: Well the show is usually 90-minutes but when it narrows down to 60, it’s just the greatest hits, kind of like Bee Gees for Dummies. I worked with her to put the set list together. There’s a certain way that we start off our show and it’s the big song – it’s the one that was huge in 1977 – one of the huge ones – I start off with “Night Fever.” In those first five seconds, bang, the sound, the falsetto. Then it goes into one hit after the other.
AXS: Do you have any expectations about your performance on the show?
JA: Absolutely I look forward to hitting that stage where there’s been so many rock icons come before us. So that is just a moment, especially for a Canadian boy. And to know when we do that show and more people get to know there’s a Bee Gees Gold out there, a tribute that honors the brothers Gibbs, as much as you know they can with love in their heart. It’s very passionate. I look forward to whatever outcome can come from performing on National Television.
AXS: And what about your costumes? What can we expect to see?
JA: Like my band says I sort of walk around in my costume all day. It’s because my clothes are emulating that late ’77 period. My hairstyle and my beard I’ve had it for the longest time. It’s sort of one of those things where I’ve always been comfortable with that look and it suits me and so now when we do the shows I have some wonderful pizazzed up jackets and bell bottoms that I wear around everywhere, everyday. It’s kind of my natural look. The spirit of ’77 is alive in me.
Catch Bee Gees Gold when they boogie down at the Whisky a-go-go live on AXS TV The World’s Greatest Tribute Bands, March 30, 7pm (PT)/10pm (ET). Get your dancin’ shoes one and come on down to the Whisky in West Hollywood and be a part of the studio audience. Get your free tickets here.