By Clarence Yu MR. Big, the hard rock supergroup that formed in the 1980's and yielded the hits "To Be With You" and "Green Tinted Sixties Mind" has reunited. The band is comprised of bassist Billy Sheehan (of Talas and David Lee Roth Band fame), guitarist Paul Gilbert (formerly Racer X), drummer Pat Torpey (formerly of The Knack) and singer Eric Martin. The group debuted with their eponymous album in 1989. This album laid the groundwork for their distinct sound: crunching, shredding guitars, precision-pounded drums, booming bass and raspy melodic vocals. Soaring choruses combined with crunch delighted fans of the band the world over. Wait. This sounds like almost every other band that blossomed out of the 80's under the rock/heavy metal genre. What differentiated Mr. Big from other bands of their time was the fact that all of the members had previous successful careers in their own right and that all of them had a knack for writing pop-sensible songs. Eric Martin's (who had a semi-successful solo career beforehand) vocals were rough but really melodic, as if he could pass off as Steven Tyler's younger brother. Pat Torpey was renowned as an excellent session drummer in his own right, outside of the rock circles. Sheehan and Gilbert in particular, known for their work as guitar virtuosos, had a chance to show their songwriting skill, and it showed. Their follow-up album Lean Into It (1991) yielded the number one hit (albeit acoustic) "To Be With You." With the onset of grunge, the band's popularity waned in the United States; however they maintained their popularity in other parts of the world, most notably in Japan, where their fan base is tremendously huge. Paul Gilbert left the band in 1997, replaced by another guitar virtuoso, Ritchie Kotzen (ex-Poison). The band recorded two more albums with Kotzen which were released to the Japan market before finally calling it quits in 2002. Rising tensions and solo ventures (as with all others) reportedly caused the break-up. However, the fact that they lasted this long as a supergroup was testimony that this was no fly by night effort. As of February 2009, the band had announced their reunion with all the original members intact. A tour of Japan is scheduled for June 2009, followed by a possible release of a live DVD. With so many rock revivals, reunions and cross-unions happening, Mr. Big might be riding on a bandwagon, but they are certainly worth your ride as well. Catch this YouTube video of their recent Japanese promotional TV performance of their 1991 song "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy," and you might catch my drift.
Recently in Japan Category
I WAS probably the only person in the room who could not understand a thing… but man, these Japanese bands know how to rock! Two hours of walking aimlessly in the cold, cold Tokyo night ("Lost in Translation," literally) before I managed to find a gig in this club called Motion in Shinju-ku district. Apparently, the Japanese are sticklers for time so the gig really started around 7 o'clock as mentioned in the gig listings I got a day earlier. I got in more than two hours later, with three bands left. This band -- whose name the lady at the bar pronounced Suppa Maikuro Panchop -- came on and struck me as quite an acoustic, experimental type. The song started somewhat acoustic all right -- until much later on the entire band went helter-skelter. Here's the video I took of Suppa Maikuro Panchop's performance. etsuko heartfield came on next, appropriately providing a downtempo atmosphere to calm things down. Among the three, this was the band I liked best. From the onset, they reminded me of Sigur Ros with a touch of The Album Leaf -- and I couldn’t resist telling one member that while they strolled past me after their set. Their songs create a collage of sounds from a variety of sources -- that's the bassist right there twiddling on an old cassette player. Thankfully, the band is on MySpace. The last one to play was this band that prefers an acronym of their Japanese name -- OWKMJ (ore wa kona mon janai). I struck a conversation with band leader Reisaburo -- that's him on sax -- in between sets and he told me their last performance was at South by Southwest in Texas! Their music is a mix of prog and psychedelic rock with a hint of punk. Sax and keyboards make for an interesting mix. And there's a reason they're last on the bill because they rocked the house. Thankfully, they have a CD available and thankfully, I had enough yen left in my pocket.