I’d love to open this by detailing precisely how Californian rockers Mr. Big took the stage and kicked off their first ever Melbourne show in a 30-year career. But, when the band played their opening song, I was unfortunately stuck outside in a massive line with many other punters trying to get into this sold-out event. I finally reached the Forum Theatre’s doors, just as Mr. Big was halfway through the fourth song (‘Just Take My Heart’), to find a packed venue with a mix of young and old, casual and die-hard fans.
There was a heartfelt tribute early on in the set as ‘Take Cover’ was dedicated to Mr Big’s original drummer Pat Torpey, who passed away just four months ago. ‘Green-Tinted Sixties Mind’ followed, which received a decent reaction, but it was clear that the audience had established the attitude they’d be sticking with for the remainder of the performance—one of half-hearted devil horns and polite, reserved applause.
The band is incredible, with legendary guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert sounding almost outgunned at times by bassist Billy Sheehan’s own technical wizardry. While Paul’s solo break teased the ‘Back In Black’ riff, Billy held the crowd in the palm of his hand with a lengthy and intricate bass solo that needed no local references.
Vocalist Eric Martin focussed every ounce of his ever-present charisma to get the audience to exhibit even a tenth of the band’s energy. “Don’t just stand there, kid!” he chided. But the crowd was content to stay put and watch with plenty of courtesy for their fellow punters—there were no knocking shoulders in this mob.
There were wholesome sing-alongs for their cover of Cat Stevens’ ‘Wild World’ and the standout hit ‘To Be With You,’ but all in all it was a surprisingly sleepy response for the legendary outfit’s first ever Aussie tour.
It was clear that the sold-out audience was there for EXTREME—for their first Australian tour since 1993—as the Boston hair-metal/funk-rock luminaries took the stage to an almighty reception. The crowd had awoken, and vocalist Gary Cherone was like fuel on the fire, dragging bassist Pat Badger by the hair away from his amp stacks to the front of the stage to belt out the chorus of opening song, ‘It’s a Monster.’
As they ploughed through big classics like ‘Li’l Jack Horny,’ ‘Get The Funk Out,’ and ‘Rest In Peace,’ Gary dominated the stage with his soaring vocals and blinding charisma. As the set rolled on, guitarist Nuno Bettencourt proved to be the real star of the show. During ‘Play For Me,’ Nuno took turns singing a back-and-forth lyrical exchange with Gary, before jumping over to a floor tom and cymbal to accompany Kevin Figueiredo’s drum solo, and then finally taking over on guitar for his own Mozart-inspired solo. For ‘Tragic Comic’ and ‘Hole Hearted,’ Nuno donned a suit jacket and fedora to go with his custom-painted acoustic, while Kevin moved to the front of the stage on a second drum-kit. “What’s it been, 25 years? How many of you were here in ’93?” Nuno asked the audience. When quite a few people responded with cheers he added, “I don’t believe you.”
The leather and denim-clad rockers slowed it down as everyone in the building sang ‘More Than Words,’ before ending on a high note as Nuno shredded his way through ‘Flight of the Wounded Bumblebee’ and then straight into ‘Decadence Dance’ for the grand finale.
While it’s hard to tell if Mr Big were satisfied, EXTREME hit their mark and delivered a set that satiated their long-awaiting fans and more than made up for a bumpy start to the night.
Thursday, 07 June 2018 – ADELAIDE, Thebarton Theatre
Friday, June 08 2018 – PERTH, Metro City Night Club
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