Mr. Big's First American Show in 15 Years -- Live Review
Neil Lupin, Redferns
It's a balmy spring Saturday night in Los Angeles, and Noisecreep is at the famed House of Blues on Sunset Boulevard after scoring a pair of tickets to the hottest show in town. For the first time in 15 years, the original lineup of Mr. Big is playing on American soil.
Formed in 1988, Mr. Big features guitarist Paul Gilbert, bassist Billy Sheehan, drummer Pat Torpey, and vocalist Eric Martin. Each member entered the band with their own already-impressive resume, which includes stints with everyone from David Lee Roth to Robert Plant. Although they enjoyed a string of successful albums and even a number one single with the 1991 ballad 'To Be with You,' Gilbert left Mr. Big 1997.
Now reunited, Mr. Big are in L.A. to kick off a world tour in support of their new and quite excellent 'What If...' album.
At 10 p.m. on the dot, the band storms the stage with 'Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy' from 1991's 'Lean into It' album. The crowd seems to know every word of the song, and Noisecreep even catches a few jaded music industry insiders singing along with the group. Eric Martin's voice sounds crisp as ever as he belts out one tuneful line after another. The singer struts around the stage like he owns the joint, taking complete command over the song.
By the time Mr. Big launch into the pristine pop of 'Green-Tinted Sixties Mind,' the guys are firing on all cylinders. Gilbert and Sheehan trade off improvised guitar and bass licks while Torpey locks into every groove with expert ease. The musicians in attendance tonight watch the band's every move as if they're trying to decode some kind of rock 'n' roll mystery.
While Mr. Big definitely deliver the technical fireworks we all came to expect from them, the band's songs remain the true stars of the evening.
New numbers such as 'Undertow' and 'Still Ain't Enough For Me' stand proudly alongside classics like 'Just Take My Heart' and 'Take Cover.' Torpey, Sheehan, and Gilbert also lend pitch-perfect backing vocals throughout the night, giving Martin extra support and letting the frontman spend a little more time connecting with the room.
Mr. Big run through all of their big hits ('To Be With You,' natch) and also throw in choice covers of '30 Days in the Hole' (Humble Pie) and The Who's 'Baba O'Riley.' The combo closes their set with the fretboard workout 'Shy Boy,' a song written by Sheehan that was originally released when he played in David Lee Roth's band. In the hands of lesser musicians, 'Shy Boy' would sound like a mess, but Mr. Big make it all look easy, turning the song's flurry of intertwined notes and speedy drums into the anthem it's meant to be.
By the time the last note of the set rings out, Noisecreep can't help but feel that Mr. Big are one of the best live rock acts on the planet right now. By the mile-wide smile on the face of each band member, it's obvious that deep inside, they feel it too.
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