Along with many others, I’ve been waiting to see Mr Big play live for a long time. Their wonderful reunion album “What If…” has resulted, at last, in a decent UK tour, kicking off in Bristol where a decent crowd are gathered to watch what we hope will be a powerful combination of catchy tunes and musical flamboyance. Well, the gig certainly starts off with a healthy dose of both, as “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy” proves to be a prefect opener, with an earphone wearing Paul Gilbert gleefully getting out a power drill to reach speeds even his fingers would balk at. All four band members see to be having a great time, and after a few sound wobbles the gig carries on with gem after gem being unearthed and hurled gleefully at the audience.

The new album isn’t ignored in any way, and we get “Undertow”, “American Beauty”, As Far As I Can See” and “Once Upon A Time”, the latter of which culminates in the sight of Billy Sheehan and Paul Gilbert cosied up centre stage, fingers flying and grins ear to ear. “Green Tinted Sixties Mind”, one of my favourites, gets an early airing, a fact which makes you realise just how many top tunes the band have, and there’s not a duffer in sight as they plough through 22 of them, finishing the main set with the classic “Addicted To That Rush”. One highlight has to be their incredible reworking of ELP’s “Hoe Down”, which should be checked out on YouTube at your earliest convenience.

As this is Mr Big, it’s a given that there’s gonna be a few solos, and sure enough Gilbert and Sheehan give vocalist Eric Martin (who is on great form throughout) a break so they can show off a bit. Whilst Gilbert makes things reasonably entertaining with a few solo spots, Sheehan is just boring with his bass solo. It’s not that he’s no good, as he is obviously a bass master, more that the bass is not an instrument designed for solos. Even more inevitable than widdly wondrousness is the appearance during the encore of “To Be With You”, which raises the cheese level to Gorgonzola, although as it’s followed by the thundering “Colorado Bulldog” we don’t mind too much.

Now, as someone who sneaked a peek at the set list earlier, I am ready to go, but the band return yet again for a bit of fun with “Smoke On The Water”. just to prove they’re not one trick ponies, we get Billy Sheehan on vocals, Paul Gilbert on drums, Pat Torpey on Bass and Eric Martin on guitar, and it all sounds bloody great! Half way through Sheehan takes over the guitar (I assume he’s better at the solo), with Martin on bass and Pat Torpey showing a good set of lungs at the mic. They return to their usual places for the finale, a great cover of The Who’s “Baba O Riley”, and we all go hoe exhausted but happy. See you next time boys, but leave the bass solo at home, eh…


Review & photos by Alan Holloway
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