Mr Big – Manchester, O2 Academy – 21 November 2017 Print
Written by DJ Astrocreep   
Saturday, 09 December 2017 04:00

Three headline bands in their own right on the same bill and it's not a festival performance? Either very good luck, or an accident waiting to happen for an expectant audience for the hard rock supergroup Mr Big. There is also the question of how much of the audience will know much beyond the obvious 'To Be With You' - far too often an issue with a band that have a song that has received so much mroe airplay then a lot of its counterparts.


Faster Pussycat 4

 PHOTO CREDIT: The Dark Queen (taken at HRH Sleaze)


First up on stage are Faster Pussycat, a band of some renown themselves from the LA sleaze rock era. Vocalist Taime Downe immediately sets the stage with his trademade mark growl snarling 'Hola!' down the microphone as they kick straight into ‘Jack The Bastard’. With only having time for seven tracks, they cut straight into ‘Cathouse’, before Taime again finds time to put his crude sense of humour across, to announce the next track, ‘Slip Of The Tongue’, is “all about the pussy”. They continue in the same vein, blasting out ballad ‘House Of Pain’ with some gusto, to singing along from the crowd, before setting the stage alight with one of their biggest tracks in ‘Bathroom Wall’. There is just enough time for a cover of ‘Shut Up And Fuck’ by Betty Blowtorch before it's time for them to leave the stage, to applause from the crowd. A very good start to proceedings for the night!


Next on stage are Northern Ireland's own The Answer, the night's "newest" band at a mere 17 years of performing. They also do not have a very long time for their set, so quickly get into the title track from their latest album, ‘Solas’. They move quickly between songs, with not much stage patter, to fit in as many tracks as they can. There is a fairly heavy lean towards their earlier works, after the first track, with the likes of ‘Preachin' and set finale ‘Come Follow Me’ coming from their first big release, ‘Rise’.


The Answer Belfast 3

PHOTO CREDIT: Darren McVeigh (taken at Limelight 2, Belfast).


Being in the slightly strange position of being further up the bill than a band of arguably more renown in Faster Pussycat does not seem to faze them, as it would some other acts, as they work their way well through their set, continuing on from where Faster Pussycat had left off, involving the audience where they can. A quick pause between tracks as frontman Cormac mentions the recent passing of Malcolm Young, an obvious inspiration for the band, whereupon they perform a well received and respectable cover of ‘If You Want Blood (You've Got It)’, before the previously mentioned finale of ‘Come Follow Me’. A performance that showed, despite some earlier uneasiness at the running order, that the sets had been picked correctly.


Feeling still somewhat early in the night, Mr Big take to the stage. It is, sadly, far too rare that a headline act perform for an extended length of time now. As the lights drop, James Brown's ‘I Can't Stand Myself’ blares out over the tannoy and on come the band, getting straight into ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy’ - affectionately known as The Electric Drill Song - and the crowd is immediately excited. The marker is well and truly set for the rest of the night, as the guitar solo is performed - as the nickname would attest to - by Paul Gilbert using a drill, some feat in itself.


Mr Big header


Vocalist Eric Martin is almost conducting the band with the microphone stand, as he turns to face the rest, using it as a baton. The sheer skill of all the musicians, is displayed right the way through, as even Pat Torpey, despite his diagnosis of Parkinson's disease a couple of years previously, plays percussion in a way only he could, shown best at the start of ‘Take Cover’, a little way into the set, an intro that even Neil Peart of Rush has remarked as having quite a unique rhythm.


Halfway through the main set, it's time for Gilbert to show his incredible technique. He starts off with the ‘Back In Black’ intro before moving smoothly on to various other riffs, pieces of shredding performed with incredible technical ability and even a second guitar placed on a stand in front of him, with the audience so involved with what is going on that a slight laugh from Paul is audible around the room as he moves on to the second guitar. A final taster of the ‘Sweet Home Alabama’ intro brings the rest of the band back on stage for them to perform their cover of Cat Stevens' ‘Wild World’, with Eric inviting the crowd to sing along with them, saying “It's better when we all do it together”, with the audience lapping it up and singing loudly along.


A couple more tracks, continually performed with incredible ability and accuracy, lead us on to bassist Billy Sheehan's turn to shine. Billy is rightfully known for his style, where he performs in a 'lead bass' style, taking the time to show off two hand tapping, controlled feedback at times, delivered in a manner that leaves even myself shaking my head in disbelief at what I am honoured to witness performed mere metres in front of my eyes. He almost goes too technical at one point, going in to a slight feedback loop that is almost jarring compared to the rest of the solo, before he starts to shred whilst finger picking - a clear indication of why he has played with the likes of Steve Vai, David Lee Roth and so many other leading lights in rock. His phenomenal talent jaw droppingly displayed, it's time for the rest of the band to now emerge back on to the stage, as he starts into ‘Addicted To That Rush’. The rest quickly join in, leaving the crowd without even so much as the time to catch their breath again, singing almost breathlessly along now.


Next up is worldwide hit ‘To Be With You’ and vocals take centre stage from Eric. With nowhere to hide if his vocals have started to hide, he nails every note, with backing vocals as crisply delivered as the recording so many years ago. Sadly, a few of the audience do indeed start to wander out after this, whether as a result of having heard what they want, or the approaching curfew and imagining to be either the penultimate or the actual final track of the night, only they know. It's a shame, as there is still time for another four tracks, including actual finale ‘30 Days in The Hole’, with The Answer vocalist Cormac retaking the stage to join them for the Humble Pie cover. Even the remaining audience are exhausted by this stage, having been so caught up with the breakneck performance of each of the bands right the way through the night, a loud cheer acknowledging what has to go down as one of the most intense and technically proficient performances I have been fortunate enough to be graced with this in a long time.


A truly captivating night.


As this article was being edited, it was announced that Mr Big will play the main stage at Bloodstock on Sunday 12 August.


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