March 2, 2015 Mr. Big sensational at B.B. Kings Club NYC 2-20-15
It was back in 2009 that Los Angeles, California Rock band Mr. Big announced their seven year hiatus would end to celebrate the twentieth anniversary of their gold-selling debut album. Now six years later, the band are going stronger than ever, touring regularly and releasing two new albums including their most recent entitled …The Stories We Could Tell. Struck with the news that their long-time drummer Pat Torpey was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, the band took a deep breath and recollected to push on with Matt Starr behind the kit for their album tour that kicked off in the Fall of 2014. Now looking to keep the good vibrations and music flowing, Mr. Big returned to the road in early 2015 ready to go. Having traveled into Europe and Asia last year, the new year brought the band to South America in the opening of February before they returned home to the USA to rock their homeland. Bringing the excitement to the frozen tundra which has been New York City this winter, on Friday February 20th, fans gathered in the relaxing lounge environment of B.B. Kings Blues Club & Grill, away from the hussle and bussle of Time Square. With direct support from Jimmy Kunes Band, the house was packed and fans were ready to unwind and thaw out with some Rock-n-Roll.
Setting the tone for an enjoyable evening was New York based Jimmy Kunes and his band. Many know Kunes for his Heavy Blues Rock style along with having been the frontman for many bands such as Exciter, Savoy Brown, Silent Partner, Hilfire, and the most recent Cactus. His solo band consists of guitarist James “Roto” Rotondi (Mr. Bungle & Air), bassist Clint Arent (Autumn Hour), and drummer Mark Marone. Beginning on time, Kunes’ bluesy and raspy voice was heard through the warm speakers the venue provides. Performing with energy and spirit, the entire band looked as though they were having a blast. They were engaging with the crowd and into their set which consists of works from multiple Kunes projects, including the song “All The Girls Are Crazy” from the Flood The Engine album as well as a few numbers from their Gate of All Saints album such as “Your New Reality” and “Falling Down Drunk In Love With You Blues.” Creating a classic Blues Rock vibe, along with slower tempo songs like “Fallen From Grace,” showed a darker side of Kunes that left the audience in complete awe. Continuing on with other surprises like “Pacified Sin,” Kunes and the band jammed for a solid forty minutes of Blues, sorrow, and good old Hard Rock.
After the fitting and solid opening, everyone was in place awaiting Mr. Big. Initially forming back in 1988, the band has accomplished a great deal, having released eight studio albums including the 1991 US platinum-selling Lean Into It. Proving they are still as creative as ever, the aforementioned …The Stories We Could Tell is a record that focuses on their personal trials in life, continuing their legacy of being a band that bears their soul through their music. While a majority of their success has been abroad in countries such as Japan, Mr. Big still have a strong home-base and, looking around B.B. Kings Club & Grill that night, the weather was not a deterrent to come out and show support.
While the crowd was anxiously waiting for Mr. Big to take the stage, the lights went out and cellphones rose into the air for the first photos or videos of their set as they played “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song).” With vocalist Eric Martin, guitarist Paul Gilbert, bassist Billy Sheehan, and drummer Matt Starr (drums) shining under the spotlight, the mood was upbeat and exhilarating from the get-go. Adding to the entertaining nature of the opening, Gilbert grabbed an electric drill to play with his axe, a flair many modern bands do not take part in. Filled with life and a tremendous amount of enthusiasm, Gilbert’s pounding guitar solo’s and Sheehan’s bass lines in “American Beauty” radiated the stage before “Undertow.” It was at this point the audience was hit by a dual surprise of a bass vs. the guitar war. With emotions riding high, one of the most glorified moments of the night came when Torpey picked up his drum sticks and played with the rest of the band for “Alive and Kickin’.” Proving he is a fighter, Torpey matched the band’s energy, performing with perfect rhythm. Torpey did remain on stage for the duration of the set, giving a bit of spice to performance with some tambourine jangling.
Continuing on with a diverse mix of songs from their discography, including newbie “I Forgot to Breathe” and seldom heard live track “Out of the Underground,” Gilbert’s guitar work continued to dazzle with a ten minute solo sprinkled in. Not only did he play the guitar with a drill, he also played it with his teeth on “Rock & Roll Over.” Like a spark plug, Gilbert was a sight to see, both emotionally and musically. Proving the night was still young, Martin picked up an acoustic guitar and shocked the crowd with a Cat Stevens cover of “Wild World.” It was a very intimate moment where all of the members came to the front of the stage to make the club feel like a private performance in one’s living room. Keeping the emotions running high, Torpey simply stated, “A year ago I didn’t think I was going to be here.” Heartfelt and real, this feeling of humanity resonated through everyone and the band fittingly dedicated new tune “East/West” to all their supporters around the world.
Mirroring each other’s optimistic attitudes and delightful sense of humor, Sheehan jokes on their world travels which consists of comparing Russia to Vodka, Germany to beer, and how Italy is shaped like a boot. Showing their worldly experience of touring had broaden their perspective, the band knew exactly how to keep the atmosphere light and warm , interjecting conversation just at the right times. Playing on with songs like “Just Take My Heart” and “Around the World,” Sheehan offered up an incredibly astonishing bass solo within it all. Seeming as if the set was through, Mr. Big rocked out one of their oldest and classic pieces, “Addicted to That Rush.” Projecting the full rich sound of late ’80s and early ’90s Rock, the encore brought on their biggest radio hit, “To Be With You,” which had every single person in the crowd singing along. Taking everyone back in time, the song still sounds flawless all these years later. Thankfully no one cut out too quickly because Mr. Big provided an added bonus of two more songs with 1993’s “Colorado Bulldog” and 2014’s “The Light of Day.”
Having toured around the world over and over, Mr. Big has built a sense of brotherhood and loyalty to each other. Remarkable and admirable, this can be seen especially during their live performance. Mr. Big is unstoppable and they have proven to their fans and themselves that they give everything they have . They know how to surprise and please the crowd, including their false alarm introductions. In addition, despite Torpey’s diagnosis, he stuck with the band the entire stretch of touring internationally. This is not only a testament to his dedication to Mr. Big, but inspiring for fans to witness. Overall, they had a great balance of different melodies from new and old material. While the tour appears to be over, hopefully they will be back on the road sooner than later, and when they do return, it is advised to buy a ticket immediately.