Live Review: Winger/Mr. Big – 02/07/15

It was a rather pleasant evening this last Saturday when two of the best-selling bands in Hard Rock joined the stage. Winger had his most famous records in the eighties and Mr. Big exploded with their hit “To Be with You” in 1991, although bassist Billy Sheehan had already found fame and fortune with Dave Lee Roth’s band in ’86.

At least in my vision it was a nice pairing. Both bands have high skilled musicians and produce a technical kind of Hard Rock. Okay, of course the musicians in Winger are not hailed as undisputable masters of their instruments as those on Mr. Big are (especially Billy and guitarist Paul Gilbert), but you can’t diminish the talent of Winger’s musicians, especially Reb Beach (guitar) and Rod Morgenstein (drums).

Mr. Big is a bigger name, so it was only natural that Winger would get the party started. Opening the concert with “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine” from the new album Better Days Comin’ two things were clear from the beginning: the sound was perfect and heavy and bassist/vocalist Kip Winger probably never sounded as good as he is sounding now. His voice was strong and powerful and gave the songs even more punch.

They followed it with a classic from In the Heart of the Young, “Easy Come Easy Go” which was sung by the crowd that by this time was still getting into the venue, although it was already reasonably full.

Next up went even further back in Winger’s history with “Hunger” from the first album followed by “Down Incognito” from the criminally underrated, technical and heavy, Pull.

Then it was time for an always boring guitar solo from Donnie Smith, followed by a thick slab of heaviness in the form of “Rat Race” from the new album. Probably one of the fastest and heaviest songs Winger ever wrote.

After another boring drum solo, it was time for the perennial “Miles Away” sung by everybody at the venue. This song never gets old. The following was basically a “greatest hits” set based on the first two records – “Headed for a Heartbreak”, “Can’t Get Enuff” and “Madalaine” –  only hindered by another boring guitar solo, this time by Reb Beach. They closed with another great classic, “Seventeen”, also sung by everybody. It was a tremendous show (excepting the solos) and I can’t stress enough how Kip’s voice was in such a nice shape.

However, the vast majority of the public was there to see the main attraction and they also didn’t disappoint. Opening with the classic electric drill song – “Daddy, Bother, Lover, Little Boy” – in the first few minutes what everybody already knew was clear: Mr. Big is probably the most technically gifted Hard Rock band ever. And Eric Martin has indeed a wonderful voice.

They followed it with a triplet from the last two albums: “Gotta Love the Ride” from …The Stories We Could Tell and “American Beauty” and “Undertow” from What If…

And then came a rather pugnacious moment, when Eric announced the presence of former drummer Pat Torpey (who is currently battling Parkinson’s disease) to play some percussion and add some backing vocals. The room erupted in ferocious applause and chants of “Pat Torpey”.

Another classic from Lean Into It, “Alive and Kickin’” followed with “I Forget to Breathe”, the beautiful “Take Cover” and one of the greatest Rock ballads of all time: “Green-Tinted Sixties Mind”. I dare to say this song is a real masterpiece. Probably my favorite Mr. Big song. Then it was time for “Out of the Underground” from Hey Man and a boring guitar solo.

Now, I know Paul Gilbert is an undisputed master when it comes to guitar playing but he doesn’t need to show that in a concert with his band! The songs are enough. If he wants to show his abilities book a workshop!

“The Monster in Me”, a Jurassic “Rock and Roll Over” from the first album and “As Far as I Can See” set the stage for their beautiful rendition of Cat Stevens’ “Wild World”. Then it was back to the new album with “East/West” and a surprise: Pat Torpey would actually play drums!

It was touching to see him doing his best (especially how he struggles with his right hand) but he managed to get through the lovely “Just Take My Heart” and “Fragile”.

Hired drummer Matt Star came back for “Around the World” and then came a bass solo. Again, we all know how good Billy is and some can argue he is even more proficient than Paul Gilbert. And he did an even more boring solo. It was endless. Every time it seemed to end it started again. When it finally ended, the band finish the first part of the show with “Addicted to that Rush”.

They returned with Eric presenting the band and the worldwide hit “To Be With You”, followed by “Colorado Bulldog” and a Judas Priest cover: “Living After Midnight” where they exchanged the instruments: Pat Torpey sang, Billy and Matt played guitars, Eric played bass and Paul played drums. It was really cool.

When everybody thought it was over, two more surprises: Pat Torpey sang again on “The Light of Day” and they finished it with him on drums playing the Free cover that names the band.

A wonderful night, with the exception of the boring solos from both bands.

Be sure to check out my book “Straight And Lethal” winner of the NABE Pinnacle Awards 2014 Fall edition.

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