Michael Clift & His Mates Started a Joke and Had The Whole World Singing
Many out-of-the-ordinary things have evolved in the Land Down Under. Where else could you find kangaroos, Tasmanian Devils, and the startling echidna (think of a combination of hedgehog, porcupine and platypus: It’s true. I’ve seen one with my own eyes.) In the world of music, Australia endowed the 80s with the likes of INXS (Sydney), Men at Work (Victoria and Melbourne), and The Little River Band (Melbourne).
Somewhat less familiar to us rock n roll Yanks, but legend in Australia and two of my favorites, is the band *Dragon (Sydney via Auckland), and the inimitable **Jimmy Barnes (Adelaide). The Bee Gees (Brisbane) are certainly the most popular and universally recognized pop rock band to come up from Down Under. With number one hits from each decade from the ‘60s to the ‘90s, the three brothers have been called the most successful musical trio in history.
That said, it must have taken some kind of bollocks to not only form a tribute band to these icons but to keep it stayin’ alive for over 15 years, and throughout forty-two countries and four thousand performances. Along with his mates, David Scott (Robin Gibb) and Wayne Hosking (Maurice Gibb), Michael Clift originally formed the Australian Bee Gees in Melbourne in July of 1997 to fund his band, Red Tape.
“It’s kind of funny how it happened. We were doing our own stuff and not really getting anywhere with that,” said Clift, the alternate lead singer (Barry Gibb) in the show now playing at the Excalibur Hotel. “We thought we’d put together a tribute band to fund ourselves. Everyone was doing the Beatles or Abba or Elvis. No one was doing Bee Gees. When we started researching we were amazed. The more we got into it the more interesting it seemed. It worked out really well. It was a good fit for us.”
According to Clift, one thing that didn’t work out in Australia prior to the Bee Gees was a stab at an Eagle’s tribute band. “We loved that. It just didn’t work as well as the Bee Gees. If I had to do another tribute I’d probably do Eric Clapton. That would be a lot of fun. When I was first starting up in bands I liked Gary Numan, Deep Purple, Super Tramp, the Beatles—the usual sort. I love Pink Floyd. I love Steely Dan.”
The band is in the middle of a four year contract with the Excalibur, playing seven nights a week in the Thunder From Down Under Theater. “We’re there until 2014. We’re happy to be there and happy to be in Vegas. We’d like to think we’ll be here for another five years. If the wheels completely fell off we’d go back to Melbourne.
“We just did our seven hundredth show at the Excalibur two nights ago,” said Clift. “It really does feel like a new show each time we do it. The audience changes every night. That’s what keeps it interesting.
“We make sure every show is a winner.We have pretty much a script in as much as we start and finish. We have a video component that has to be fairly spot on. But the way the night goes? A lot about it is the audience.”
Rock n’ roll never dies. And it would seem seem from the enthusiasm of the audience at The Australian Bee Gees Show two weeks ago that disco and ballads don’t die, either. Good on ya, mates! – Christine McKellar
For show reservations, please visit:http://www.excalibur.com/entertainment/
*Dragon-April Sun in Cuba-http://youtu.be/BHFFuukk9Y8
**Jimmy Barnes (Barnsey)-Out In The Blue-http://youtu.be/vB2rdEHjQRM