Mr. Big, the hard-driving, 90’s quartet with a pop edge rolled into Agoura Hills for a show at the Canyon Club on Friday, June 23rd. Touring out ahead of their forthcoming album, Defying Gravity, the Canyon Club show is the penultimate date of the U.S. leg of their tour. Following a June 24th show at the Canyon’s sister venue, the Rose in Pasadena, the band will take an almost two month break, before heading south of the border for a tour of South America and Mexico.
The Canyon has a fine stable of opening acts, which they utilize in a healthy rotation to provide a good mix of warm-ups for the name entertainment that graces their stage but do not bring openers along with them. This night is no exception, as two very capable ensembles prime the pump for the headliners. First up is Liquid Circus, out of Mission Viejo. Comprised of Rick Maestas, bass and vocals, Benjamin Sanders, lead vocals, Devin Feldman, lead guitar, Mike Feldman, drums and guitarist Kevin Davis, the quintet blasts out a set of powerful, hard-edged, guitar fueled rock n’ roll. The second act to take the stage is Los Angeles based Fat Daddy Special. This five man band led by Phil Maldonado on guitars and vocals, bleeds a set of southern blues, rock, laced with inspired lead guitar from Slappy White. Chief Lee Bryan and Doug Whuitsick, on bass and drums respectively keep the pace, while Teddy Andreadis provides the keyboards and harmonica.
Mr. Big begins their set with Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy, the galloping, opening track from their breakthrough album, Lean Into It. Vocalist Eric Martin delivers his lyrical plea with the raspy, sweetness so characteristic of his style. Guitarist Paul Gilbert and bassist Billy Sheehan perform their signature power drill section of the opener to the delight of the audience.
After a few songs, Sheehan takes to the microphone and after greeting and thanking the crowd, remarks that “something seems to be missing.” The crowd quickly meshes together in a chant of “Pat…Pat…Pat…,” at which point Pat Torpey, the original drummer for the band, walks on to the stage, to a roar from the previously chanting crowd. Amid the applause, Torpey, who was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease three years ago, gets behind a small percussion set up. He plays the majority of the rest of the set, providing additional beat, tambourine and backing vocals. All this, by all accounts, at the insistence of his band mates. Manning the drum set in Torpey’s stead, is veteran drummer Matt Starr. Starr has played with numerous musicians and is an apt and extremely capable substitute on the kit. Starr relinquishes the drum stool for Torpey to get behind the kit for Just Take My Heart, one of the two popular ballads from Lean Into It.
The band plays two numbers from the forthcoming album Defying Gravity. During the middle of the set they play Everybody Needs a Little Trouble. During the encore, it’s the maybe a little bitterly nostalgic, 1992, about their meteoric rise to fame and what is probably the even more ballistic fall from grace. It seems that when some of that stuff gets a little more distant in the rear view mirror, one can embrace all that the experience entails. From all appearances, Mr. Big has done just that. Gilbert is dressed as unlike a rock star as maybe one can, in jeans and a t-shirt. Martin still exudes his boyish charm and charisma. Sheehan plays with his unique ferocity and massages his bass like only he can. Torpey joins in with an optimism that has no room for cynicism. Starr plays with the enthusiasm of someone who has been there all along. Whatever the events are that led up to this point in time, and if they’re faking it, they’re really good at it, Mr. Big appears to be having an incredibly good time, doing what they do, right here in 2017.
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