Legendary rock at the Bataclan: Mr. Big makes Paris vibrate

After an epic journey spanning three decades, American rock band Mr. Big is currently on a picturesque farewell tour titled ‘The Big Finish’. This Tuesday evening, full of expectations, the tour stopped at the Bataclan. La Bataclan, located not far from Montmartre station where the Montparnasse accident took place at 4:00 p.m. on October 22, 1895 when the Express Granville-Paris overran the barrier at its terminus at Montparnasse station. A photo of the train protruding from the station became the iconic cover for Mr. Big’s “Lean Into It” album. This album is played in its entirety on this tour. It is remarkable that the legendary Los Angeles band failed to guarantee a full house.

The death of drummer Pat Torpey in February 2018 plunged the band into a period of mourning, a sort of winter lethargy, from which they have now awakened for their farewell tour. Replacing Torpey proved to be a challenge, as he not only played drums but also contributed significantly to the band’s sound as a backing-vocalist. However, the band has now found a more than capable replacement in Nick D’Virgilio, former drummer of Big Big Train, Tears for Fears and Spock’s Beard, who also stands out vocally, becoming a worthy successor to Pat Torpey.

Over thirty years ago, the band delivered their iconic album “Lean into it”, featuring their atypical mega-hit “To be with You”, amid a collection of hard rock classics that form the basis of their excellent reputation in concert. At the Bataclan, this album was played in its entirety, accompanied by a mouth-watering selection of other favorites.

It was once again entertaining to see that even today, unexpected fans come to a Mr. Big concert to escape with the music while getting lost in the mesmerizing eyes of singer Eric Martin. These are the people who, after five minutes, rush to the locker room in surprise. A ‘running gag’ which has undoubtedly become a characteristic of the group over the years.

When The Ramones’ “Blitzkrieg Bob” blares through the speakers, fans know the moment is coming. “Hey Ho, Let’s Go!”

Mr. Big kicks off with “Addicted to that Rush”, immediately showing that “To be With You” fans are going to miss their ticket. The energy is undeniable. The band rocks like a rock band has to do it. Hard, mercilessly groovy and tight like the drive belt of a brand new Japanese motorcycle. It’s this pure rock energy that has earned the band such a devoted fan base around the world.

Next, a warm ode from singer Eric Martin to the late Pat Torpey, as he asks drummer Nick D’Virgilio to kick in the ‘Pat Torpey signature beat’ from “Take Cover”. D’Virgilio proves to be a worthy replacement, showing plenty of respect for Torpey in his game.

When “Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy” hits the halfway point, it’s obvious. What a whirlwind of a song this remains. Pure muscular music of the highest level. Guitarist Paul Gilbert and bassist Billy Sheehan use their instruments as weapons, with the famous drill gimmick as the icing on the cake in a stunning guitar battle. Two men in front of me in the crowd, who could have come straight out of the animated series Beavis and Butthead; ‘huh huhhuh. They were playing with a drill, uhuhuhuh, so cool’ and it was just included in the post!

It was obvious that Mr. Big hadn’t lost an bit of power and attitude in thirty years. Eric Martin had to leave the stage several times the day before during a concert in London to Michele Luppi, the Italian singer of Whitesnake, who began his career as the singer of a Mr. Big tribute band called Mr. Pig (I’m not making this up).

It was a shame that Luppi probably didn’t have more time, because Eric Martin proved incapable of delivering what he would surely have wanted in Paris. Although his voice gave out halfway through, he struggled admirably for the rest of the concert. There are singers who, even in great shape, cannot reach this level.

Guitar virtuoso Paul Gilbert, dressed in a smart suit and tie, looked like he could preach the gospel from the street corner, and he got the chance to show off his magic. A solo full of clever references to Mr. Big’s lesser-known tracks and even the Rocky movie theme, “Gonna Fly Now”. Half the room was filled with amateur guitarists, so he was playing for an audience full of cameras.

Of course, Billy Sheehan also had his moment on stage. He played his bass as if the poor instrument had sinned against the master’s will. A show, a circus act, magic e pure. Nobody plays like Sheehan. It’s a certainty.

Ultimately, these breaks gave Eric Martin enough time to find his voice a little. The band ended the concert with “Baba O’Reilly” by The Who. Mr. Big’s concert at the Bataclan will always be remembered. A temporary farewell to what was once the best live band in the world and continues to play in the top division. The power, the attitude, it was all there. Some things fortunately never change.

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