CD Reviews

Mr. Big - 'Back to Budokan' Hot

Added by James Gaden     February 17, 2010    
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New live album recorded in 2009 after the supergroup reformed.


Mr. Big are my favourite band of all time, and to be able to review something NEW from them is a dream come true. This was one group that I thought were dead and buried and I never saw the reformation coming. As I stated in my Little Caesar review, bands I get into in a big way tend to break up, and while Whitesnake did after ‘Restless Heart’, I thought they’d be back. I didn’t think Mr. Big would. By the time I got into them they’d put out ‘Hey Man’... then guitar hero extraordinaire Paul Gilbert packed his bags. Despite being replaced by the brilliant Richie Kotzen, two more studio albums were all the band could muster before they spluttered to a halt and broke up, leaving me cradling the ‘Mr Big In Japan’ farewell live album and DVD in my arms like abandoned orphans. No band who play that well on their last ever gig should be allowed to break up. But they did!

I followed each of them on their solo careers, but always wanted the band back together, and a chance to see them live without having to go to Japan to do it. Phenomenally, the chance was afforded to me when it was finally announced that hatchets had been buried, and the original all star Sheehan/Martin/Torpey and Gilbert line up was restored. They were hitting the road and going to document it with a live CD and DVD.

The natural choice was Budokan in Japan where they are revered like the gods that they are, and the album is superb. The return of Paul Gilbert is inspiring and they group play like they’ve never been apart. The setlist is a monstrous 24 songs (29 if you throw in the bass/guitar/drum/guitar vs bass/human capo solo spots) and is hands down the longest Mr Big show I’ve ever seen. All the songs are Gilbert era tracks, with the addition of a spectacular three part harmony version WITHOUT Eric of Lennon/McCartney’s ‘Its For You’ (made famous by Cilla Black/Three Dog Night, depending where you’re from - I’m betting the Big boys know it from Three Dog Night!) and ‘new’ song ‘Next Time Around’, which was actually a song they wrote when they were still together, but never used for some reason. There’s also covers of Argent’s ‘Hold Your Head Up’, ‘Smoke On The Water’ (again without Eric, leaving Billy, Pat and Paul to trade lead vocals and they all do a decent job) and the Who’s ‘Baba O’Reilly’ - plus a rousing ‘Shyboy’ to round the night off.

All the expected tracks are there like ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy’ (with drills present and accounted for!), ‘Green Tinted Sixties Mind’, ‘Addicted To That Rush’, ‘Just Take My Heart’, ‘Wild World’ and of course ‘To Be With You’. Songs from every Gilbert era album are present, and there’s even a couple of rarities such as ‘Stay Together’ and ‘I Love You Japan’ which only ever appeared on the first Mr Big ‘Best of’ compilation... and even then the latter only on the Japanese version. Everything is played to perfection, Eric is in fine voice and the band sound happy and enthusiastic about giving it another go.

No Mr. Big fan could possibly do without this, and there’s even the added incentive of the studio versions of ‘Next Time Around’ and ‘Hold Your Head Up’ thrown in so it saves you importing the new Japanese ‘Very Best of’ to get them. I love it, but nobody is shocked by that revelation. Yet I defy anybody not to rate it when there are four musicians of this quality performing such well crafted songs. Billy, Paul and Pat have all improved no end with their backing singing as their spots show, and it’s just made Mr. Big even better. Can’t wait to see it on DVD!

James Gaden


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