Gibb, his trademark high falsetto in fine shape, rolled back the years, paying tribute to mentor Robert Stigwood on a delicate First of May, revisiting early hits Spicks and Specks and New York Mining Disaster 1941. As Gibb recalled his friendship with the late Sir David Frost before Too Much Heaven, the thought struck that tonight was as much about death as it was about dancing. During an impassioned, gospel-flecked and grief-tinged To Love Somebody Gibb repeatedly threw his head heavenwards, as if addressing his brothers directly, and likewise on I’ve Gotta Get a Message to You, on which he duetted with his heavily bearded and tattooed son Stephen.
Songs that appeared to be ballads now sounded like beautiful elegies. When Gibb brought out his niece Sammi to sing with him I feared the worst. She was fantastic, duetting with Barry on How do you Mend a Broken Heart and absolutely nailing Chain Reaction. Having sung with his living relatives, Barry duetted with the ghost of Robin on I Started a Joke. It should by rights have been embarrassingly mawkish but it wasn’t – the flickering image of Robin on the screen, smiling as if acknowledging the applause, was genuinely moving.
Backing singer Beth Cohen took centre stage for a spectacular Woman in Love. To hear that after Guilty, Islands in the Stream and Chain Reaction was to be reminded one was in the presence of a songwriting genius. A large glitterball descended throwing splintered light across the arena, turning it into a giant disco for Night Fever and More Than a Woman, a tender hushed Words and then he was gone. The Brothers Gibb may be mortal but the music they made is timeless: as long as people fall in love and love to dance, the Bee Gees will live on.