Mr. Big - LIVE: Shepherd's Bush Empire, London 2017

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Defying Gravity Tour
November 19 (20:35 - 21:55)
Capacity 2,000

Mr. Big were joined by The Answer and Faster Pussycat in Shepherd's Bush for the London date of their Defying Gravity UK tour. For a Sunday night, all three bands performed to a surprisingly substantial audience, however that's not an entirely surprising situation given that it was Mr. Big's first London date since 2014.

Faster Pussycat were the first to hit the stage, and for the most part they exhibited the typical traits of a bad going through the motions. While fan favourites like House of Pain and Bathroom Wall managed to stir a response from the Sunday crowd, the band looked perhaps a little lethargic for the most part. While it certainly wasn't a train wreck of a performance, it was far from a memorable one.

The same however couldn't be said of The Answer. After their support slot on the 2008 AC/DC Black Ice tour, most fans expected the Irish band to really kick on with their career, and while their peers like Black Stone Cherry and Airbourne have continued to gather momentum since then, The Answer have sort of moved sideways in terms of developing a fan base. Even with the change of direction on Solas, it still feels like the band are perpetually teetering on the edge of 'breaking through', yet if their performance at the Empire was anything to go by, this certainly can't be attributed to a lack of attitude. Opening with Solas, the band performed a high energy, albeit short set that included tracks like Come Follow Me and a tribute to the recently departed Malcolm Young with If You Want Blood (You Got It). It will be interesting to see what happens to The Answer in the forthcoming year, but their current live form definitely warrants catching them.

The last time Mr. Big played the Empire was before O2 took over the sponsorship, and that show in particular was perhaps one of the best the band have played in the UK over the last ten years. While some of their other dates, such as at the Koko in 2014, have all been typically good, that date stands out above the rest. But with that said, their return to the venue was easily on the same level.

Opening with Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy, the band tore into a 23-song set that featured a mixture of well-known material in tandem with five tracks off of the recently released Defying Gravity. By doing so, Mr. Big found themselves in the situational sweet spot of having both a strong back catalogue to draw from, but also a wealth of new songs that were strong enough to knock some old favourites from the set. The set itself was also a good example of the kind of hunger Mr. Big performed with; it was high energy, with no hint of the band resting on their laurels. They blazed through their seminal hit To Be With You, instead choosing to spend their time on heavier classics like Rock And Roll Over, Price You Gotta Pay, and Addicted To That Rush.

In terms of the actual members of the band themselves, while Matt Starr did an excellent job of filling in for Pat Torpey for the majority of the show, Torpey himself made an appearance after the third song, played on the occasional number and continued to add percussion for the remainder of the set. Mr.Big's strength as a band has always been a result of the sum of its parts, so seeing a jubilant Torpey with the band, in whatever capacity, was a heart-warming touch. As for Eric Martin, if his voice has faded at all over the years, there were no signs of it on show here. Grasping every high or low reached for, his performance was both charismatic and competent. Finally, it wouldn't be adequate to speak about Mr. Big without mentioning the contributions of Paul Gilbert and Billy Sheehan; both displayed the kind of outrageous levels of musicality that is expected of them. The pair are an ideal match in so many respects; while Sheehan furiously drives the band with his growling bass, Gilbert is free to access the music in any way he sees fit, sometimes locking into the swing of the band and other times accenting parts with flurries or interesting phrasing. The interplay between the two has always been one of the main drawing points of Mr. Big, and it's fair to say that, as well as their solos, were some of the highlights of the show.

Despite the mixed response to Defying Gravity, Mr. Big appear to be on exceptional live form at the moment. They look as hungry and motivated to perform as ever, never going through the motions or relying on old material, they even ditched the fa├žade of an encore in order to include a couple of extra numbers. However, one of the best aspects of this show was that it offered a different perspective on Defying Gravity. By including five tracks off of the album it was possible to hear them in their intended form, not the versions written and recorded in six days. It seems fair to say that since the album has been released the songs have taken on a new shape and form, and completely warrant their inclusion in the set. Still, regardless of what material they're playing, of the last three London shows the band have played, this was arguably the best.

Faster Pussycat setlist: Jack The Bastard / Cathouse / Slip of The Tongue / Number 1 With A Bullet / House of Pain / Bathroom Wall / Shut Up And Fuck

The Answer setlist: Solas / On And On / Preachin' / Faith Gone Down / Spectacular / Strange Kinda' Nothing / If You Want Blood (You've Got It) / Come Follow Me

Mr. Big setlist: Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song) / American Beauty / Undertow / Alive And Kickin' / Temperamental / Just Take My Heart / Take Cover / Green-Tinted Sixties Mind / Everybody Needs A Little Trouble / Price You Gotta Pay / Guitar Solo / Open Your Eyes / Wild World / Damn I'm In Love Again / Rock And Roll Over / Around The World / Bass Solo / Addicted To That Rush / To Be With You / 1992 / Colorado Bulldog / Defying Gravity / 30 Days In The Hole

Written by James Abel
More: 2017, Gigs, Hard/Heavy Rock,

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