Following their storming set at Download Festival in June, virtuoso supergroup Mr. Big are back to promote their seventh studio album What If… with a full UK tour. We like fast guitars and massive choruses, so headed down to Shepherd’s Bush Empire to watch the best band ever to share a name with a Sex And The City character. Not that we know much about the show or own the box set or anything.
Six things we found out when we went to see Mr. Big in London:
1) It’s been 20 years since the release of Lean Into It and Mr. Big are taking no prisoners tonight by opening with the first three tracks off that seminal record. It would have been great to hear the album performed in its entirety as some sort of 20th anniversary concert but alas, the band have other priorities tonight.
2) We are treated to six tracks off What If… and they hold up well against the band’s earlier classics. Whilst parts of the new record run the risk of sounding too polished, their live delivery is considerably grittier and heavier – which definitely breathes more life into songs like ‘Undertow’, ‘American Beauty’ and ‘Once Upon A Time’.
3) Eric Martin has one of the best voices in AOR/melodic rock, though tonight it sounds like it will go at any point. He manages to hit the notes when singing, but projecting his voice to the crowd in between songs seems a bit of a struggle. This doesn’t stop him from fronting the band to his usual standard – ten out of ten for effort.
4) Paul Gilbert is clearly the star of the show tonight and yet again manages to stun the crowds with his face-melting guitar solos, tenacious stage presence and powerful backing vocals. Whilst it’s all too common for guitarists out there to get carried away with widdling, Paul’s ability to fuse his neo-classical influences with aggressive blues licks makes him one of the best shredders in the world today.
5) If tonight was a Billy Sheehan gig, the 20-minute bass solo would have probably been fine. Unfortunately for Mr. Big, it created a massive slump towards the end of the set and lost the momentum they had spent the past hour and a half building up. Of course it’s very impressive on a technical level and proves Billy to be the greatest rock bassist out there – but chances are everyone in this room would have known that already.
6) Those that were able to endure the tedious bass solo are treated to a cover of ‘Smoke On The Water’, though Mr. Big have a few tricks up their sleeve. Eric Martin grabs the guitar, Paul Gilbert gets behind the kit, Pat Torpey takes up the bass leaving Billy Sheehan to front the band. As if that wasn’t enough, the band swap again midway with Pat singing, Eric on bass and Billy ripping out that classic guitar solo. It’s a great end to what could have been a great gig – but clocking in at two and a half hours, you can’t help but feel Mr. Big gave a bit too much away this time around.
Mr. Big @ London Shepherds Bush Empire setlist:
Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)
Alive And Kickin’
Green-Tinted Sixties Mind
Just Take My Heart
Once Upon a Time
For You / Hoedown
A Little Too Loose
Road to Ruin
Paul Gilbert Guitar Solo
Still Ain’t Enough for Me
Price You Gotta Pay
Take A Walk
Around The World
As Far As I Can See
Billy Sheehan Bass Solo
Addicted To That Rush
To Be With You
Smoke on the Water (Deep Purple cover)
Shy Boy (Talas cover)