Live From The Living Room
When Mr. Big released What If, their first studio album in almost 10 years in 2011, and their first with the original line up in 15 years, fans in Japan were especially excited. It's no secret the band enjoys massive success in the Far East, so when they were touring the country in support of the new album, they were invited to the WOWOW TV Studios in Tokyo to perform a special show in an acoustic setting. Live From The Living Room, a 10-song CD, captures that show where 'unplugged' takes on a whole new meaning.
Even for a band of notorious shredders, Mr. Big is more than familiar with playing acoustically. Their Number One hit from 1991, "To Be With You," is an acoustic ballad after all. For this show, the band decided to enhance the music with a string quintet, which works well on "To Be With You." In what could be perceived as a refined and mellow presentation, the guys in Mr. Big manage to kick up dust on some of the harder numbers. You can feel an understated energy surging through "Undertow" and "Still Ain't Enough For Me" as guitarist Paul Gilbert and bassist Billy Sheehan brandish their acoustics as if they were playing a 20,000 seat arena.
To temper the virtuosity, singer Eric Martin sprints from number to number with vocal agility, doubling as the ringmaster whose songs have endeared listeners with tastes running more conventional to the fast guitar and bass solo enthusiasts following Gilbert and Sheehan. Setting up "Voodoo Kiss," Martin does his best Steven Tyler rap before the band plows through on the straight forward boogie woogie treatment. Where things get interesting is when the band turns a catchy, driving riff like "Take Cover" into a spacey, jazz-like romp. "A Stranger In My Life," like the aforementioned "to Be With You," uses the strings, arranged by Takashi Miyazaki, to great effect. You're not going to find "Addicted To That Rush" or "30 Days In The Hole" on Live From The Living Room (although they do end the disc with a plugged-in "Nobody Left To Blame"), but you will gain a new perspective on the depth and musicality of the legendary Mr. Big.
~ Shawn Perry