Words by Lucas P. Jones | Photos by Eric Nuber
Pop Break Live: Mr. Big with Gifthorse at The Newton Theater, Newtown NJ.
Newton, New Jersey played host to one of the most surprising shows I’ve been to in a long time. Surprising, mostly because I had no idea that one of my “go see them if they ever get back together” bands, Mr. Big, was essentially kicking off their American tour at the Newton Theatre. With a new album on the way, and a catalogue of classics behind them, Mr. Big surely wouldn’t disappoint.
The opening band, Gifthorse, was an excellent choice for an opener. Billing themselves as a loud rock band, Gifthorse managed to show off in an opening set that they earned that billing. I always love when a power trio is able to bring a full sound to the table, and this band did just that. The star for me was the tight grooves of the drum and bass section featuring Tommy Messinger on drums and
Jeremy Aguiar on bass. They added some flair to the music, which worked really well behind the bluesy singing of the Mike Hoover.
As the clock struck nine, Mr. Big took the stage one by one, and opened the show with “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy,” possibly better known as “The Drill Song.” It’s aptly named because, after tucked away past the glorious riffage, shred heavy Paul Gilbert solo, and Eric Martin’s signature highs, is a unison guitar and bass solo played with drills. Yes, you heard me right. After watching the video once or a few hundred times as a budding guitar player, it was really cool to finally see it live.
About three songs in, the band was joined by drummer Pat Torpey on backup rhythm. Pat has been fighting Parkinson’s since 2014, and has had to give up full-time live drum duties, but he was up there for most of the night, adding depth to the rhythm section in various ways, which was great to see as a fan of the band. Mr. Big was high energy all night, blazing through their set list, only taking breaks for the guitar and drum solos.
Paul Gilbert’s guitar solo was incredible, combining clean chords with an all-out “Get Out of my Yard” style shred fest, and Bill Sheehan’s bass solo was a mind bending example of just how good he is. Mr. Big played favorites like “Undertow,” “To Be With You,” and “Addicted to That Rush,” while incorporating two new songs, “Everybody Needs a Little Trouble,” and “1992,” both of which are sure to become classics.
Mr. Big may be a super group straight out of the ’80s metal scene, but in 2017 they are far from a nostalgia act. They are some of the most talented musicians of today putting out new music, touring, rocking bodies and melting faces off. The new tracks sound like they picked up right where they left off, and they still put on a top quality performance live, which is not something you can say for some bands from the era. I highly recommend a visit to a Mr. Big tour stop, but only if you love high energy rock music with killer solos. If you don’t love those things, then I guess there is nothing I can do to help you.