WILKES-BARRE — When he was coming of age in the 1970s, Peter Mazzeo followed the Bee Gee’s advice about how “You Should Be Dancing.”
He went out to clubs, and he even dressed the part.
“Oh, I wore Huckapoo shirts and bell bottoms and platform shoes,” Mazzeo admitted with a laugh. “Too bad I got rid of all that stuff.”
Mazzeo may have discarded his disco togs, but he maintains his affection for the music and keeps it alive in performances of the New York Bee Gees tribute show, which will come to the F.M. Kirby Center for the Performing Arts on May 12.
“It’s just wonderful music,” he said. “The fact that they were brothers allowed that blend that is so difficult to emulate, such a unique sound. Because they were in the same family, it was in the DNA.”
Mazzeo, who takes the role of eldest brother Barry Gibb in the show and sings “all the falsetto stuff” isn’t related to the singers who represent twins Robin and Maurice Gibb. Nevertheless, he says the tribute group frequently hears that audience members “feel it’s the best representation they’ve seen.”
“They jump right in, singing along and dancing in their seats and in the aisles,” Mazzeo said. “They feel like they’re really back in time.”
Not all of the fans are old enough to remember the Bee Gees from the 1970s, when the trio’s “Saturday Night Fever” album became the best-selling movie soundtrack of all time.
“We were at a Resorts World Casino and there were people who came from Italy. They were in their 20s, a couple who just got married, and they were dancing and singing all the songs. The wonderful thing about this music is, it’s not only inter-generational but international,” Mazzeo said. “Many people come to our shows from the Philippines, Spain, London. They absolutely love it. They know all the words.”
When they’re in town, the New York Bee Gees will be sure to sing “You Should Be Dancing,” “Night Fever” and “More Than A Woman” as well as some of the Bee Gees’ earlier songs, such as “Massachusetts,” which Mazzeo describes as being more folk-oriented and low-energy.
“We speak to (the audience) about some of the songs, give them a little history and build the energy,” said Mazzeo, who has been known to “jump out into the audience” and invite people to sing along or even to dance a bit with him.
The performance also includes songs written by the Bee Gees but made famous by other artists such as Barbra Streisand, Dionne Warwick and Yvonne Ellman.
“There was a time in the Bee Gees’ career when they decided not to record. They were not happy with the way music was going and the way they were being treated,” Mazzeo said, explaining the group wanted to venture into other genres.
“A lot of people don’t know they wrote ‘Islands in the Stream,’ ” he said, naming a song country artists Kenny Rogers and Dolly Parton recorded together.
With Maurice Gibb passing away in 2003, Robin in 2012 and even their youngest brother, solo artist Andy Gibb, succumbing to heart failure in 1988, Barry is the only surviving brother.
“We continue that music for him and for his legacy,” Mazzeo said. “It’s been a blessing that we’ve all been so fortunate to do something we love.”
“I grew up to ‘be’ Barry Gibb,” he mused. “Who would think of that?”
Reach Mary Therese Biebel at 570-991-6109 or on Twitter @BiebelMT.