Live Gig Report and Photos: Robert Cavuoto
Mr. Big delivered a passionate performance dripping with killer riffs and blazing guitar & bass shredding at the Newton Theater in NJ on Wednesday, June 7th.
Fans came out to hear the band take them on a journey down memory lane to a lost time. But don’t think for one minute this is a nostalgia act; the show incorporates songs from the band’s new CD, Defying Gravity due out July 7th. New songs like “1992” and “Everybody Needs a Little Trouble” have the band’s classic vibe; done in the same spirit and energy of their 1989 debut CD. These new songs tied nicely with the classic hits and were played with the same conviction in tonight’s unblemished performance. The set list consisted of 22 songs that included the smooth “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind” to the groove inspired “Alive and Kickin” to the aggressive “Addicted to the Rush”. The band easily transition between these multi-styled songs smoothly without losing the audience’s attention or missing a beat.
The band features two virtuosos; Paul Gilbert on guitar and Billy Sheehan on bass and these guys did not hold back. Their brilliant mastery shined for their army of captivated followers who devoured every note.
Paul is a tremendous guitarist, expressing himself and his feelings in every note; bending sounds as well as the listeners’ minds. Many of his techniques may have looked easy but most accomplished guitarists would struggle to figure how to play the parts let alone perform them flawlessly.
I had the chance to speak with Paul before the show and asked him; what can fans learn from his playing tonight? He replied, “Fans tend to come to concerts and my clinics with the state of mind that they will learn something. What I really want them to learn is that I’m communicating music. It’s got a rhythm, grooves, and accents. This is not just for the mind but for the body as well. It’s for singing and feeling, those things may seem simple but shouldn’t be forgotten. Mr. Big is fortunate that we are able to combine that feeling and some primitive musical quality along with sophisticated stuff.” Paul is truly a gifted guitarist who’s playing never disappoints and tonight he was on top of his game.
Billy Sheehan is an equal master on the bass; all ten fingers constantly moving at breakneck speed for every beat and measure. His aggressive strumming and finger tapping left fans in awe. He soloed throughout every song but it was done in a tasteful way to balance the guitar and vocals yet stay in the pocket of the drums. The only way to describe it was the marriage of fury and grace.
Eric Martin sang his ass off never tiring, running stage like a man half his age. His voice sounded as good as you remembered in the 90’s, there was no struggling or compensating. He shined like a true star and delivered a note-perfect performance through a sequence of the band’s greatest hits.
Matt Starr was on drums but was helped by original drummer Pat Torpey who played percussion alongside his kit. Pat was recently diagnosis with Parkinson’s disease but did get behind the kit for one song.
One of tonight’s many highlights came during the opening song, “Daddy Brother Lover Little Boy,” when Paul and Billy pulled out cordless drill guns and proceed to tear up the strings in a ferocious pitch. Towards the end of the show, the two took center stage to showcase their talents and perform a blistering intro to “Addicted to that Rush.” No Mr. Big show would be complete without hearing the Cat Steven cover of “Wild World” or the band smash ballad, “To Be with You” where Pat took center stage to sing with Eric.
It was obvious that the band and audience had a great time. The intimacy and energy of the venue made for a terrific experience. An evening of great songs, amazing playing and on-stage camaraderie made this a show one not to be missed.