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Staying Alive

American joins Australian Bee Gees for uncanny tour by Allison Carter | February 27, 2015 at 1:00 a.m.

The music is loud, and the women are still warm for a reincarnation of the pop group that made disco forever cool.

The Australian Bee Gees are coming to Northwest Arkansas for a performance that will launch audiences out of the Ozarks and straight into the uncanny valley.

FAQ

The Australian Bee Gees Show

WHEN β€” 8 p.m. today

WHERE β€” Walton Arts Center, 495 W. Dickson St. in Fayetteville

COST β€” $22-$52

INFO β€” waltonartscenter.org

Touted as the world's leading Bee Gees tribute band, the Australian Bee Gees Show has garnered international attention through its resemblance in both looks and sound. From "How Deep is Your Love" to "Night Fever," the Las Vegas spectacular seamlessly blends the three-part harmonies and trademark high notes that made the Bee Gees one-of-a-kind.

Formed in 1958, the Bee Gees created a worldwide phenomenon after signing with Robert Stigwood in 1967 and rocketed to popularity with the subsequent release of "To Love Somebody."

The higher pitched voices helped set the band apart from contemporary acts like the Beatles and The Rolling Stones and has, until this Australian Bee Gees tribute band, made the sound hard to replicate.

And perhaps no one can imitate the R&B falsetto of Barry Gibb better than the only American in the touring group, Las Vegas performer Matt Baldoni.

"I am so grateful to be a part of this tour and to help people relive this music in such a nostalgic way," he says. "It's about keeping the music alive."

Born in a small town in California, the sensitive four-eyed kid who "struggled" with sports never thought much about becoming a musician, he says, until one fateful, lonely night of television ended with a sudden revelation.

"I saw this guy with glasses playing the guitar on PBS," he says with a laugh. "And everyone adored him. It had never occurred to me that someone with glasses could be so popular."

With his admiration for Eric Clapton fully evolved, the 8-year-old begged his mother for guitar lessons. It didn't take long for the young performer to develop a lifelong passion that would lead him from playing weddings to sold-out arenas.

"Around the age of 16, I started playing with a band, doing weddings and birthday parties," he explains. "After college, I decided I needed to move to a place with more opportunities, so I headed to Los Angeles."

The musician cut his teeth touring with Frankie Valli before making the move to Las Vegas, where he worked as a guitarist for Cirque du Soleil and landing a role that Baldoni calls "serendipitous."

The original Australian Bee Gees Show had toured for 16 years before taking up residence at the Renaissance Hotel in Las Vegas in 2011. Although wildly successful, committing to a stationary performance schedule meant an end to touring, Baldoni says. "They couldn't tour so they realized that would have to get another cast of Australian Bee Gees."

And it was a cast that would include a whole new Barry Gibb -- the American with the baritone speaking voice.

Michael Clift, who plays the roll of Barry in the Las Vegas show, took Baldoni under his wing and trained him as the character, Baldoni says. "He trusts me to represent the company while he holds down the show in Las Vegas," he says. "It means the world to me to do this."

But the role doesn't end on stage, he says.

Like many 1960s and '70s musicians, Barry Gibb not only had to keep his voice healthy but maintained a full beard and near-wafer thin frame. And in the role of Barry, Baldoni is expected to do the same.

"The look is simple, really. I pride myself on being very healthy, and I enjoy working out and eating clean so I have no problem staying lean," he says. "But I have to constantly work out my voice. Those high notes don't come easy."

But the work is paying off.

"I'm not just portraying a character -- I'm portraying a legend. The Gibbs are the Kennedys of music," he says. "My job is really cool, and I get to live off of what I love to do. And my folks are pretty proud of me and what I do. But I think they are still waiting for me to get a real job."

NAN What's Up on 02/27/2015

Print Headline: Staying Alive

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