When bands record a live performance, they usually pull out all the stops and try to give what they can only hope is a legendary performance.
They look to use it as a milestone or as something of an anniversary performance, say farewell to a band member or even welcome a new recruit into the fold. Live recordings also serve as a good way to pad out a discography, help to fulfil a quota on an ‘X-releases’ contract with a label and (most importantly) to give something to the fans. Now, we all know there are some iconic live performances out there, captured and committed to immortality officially or unofficially. Bootlegs, YouTube, Official band releases… From legendary releases such as Deep Purple’s ‘Made In Japan’ to that YouTube clip where Glenn Danzig spectacularly swan-dives off stage. Live recordings are such a diverse part of music, it’s no wonder Hard Rock and technical perfectionist super group Mr. Big have several live albums to their name.
But will ‘Live From Milan’ measure up to the band’s phenomenal 2009 comeback release ‘Back To Budokan’?
It’s hard to say, to be honest. This isn’t down to any performance or production issues. This isn’t down to any set list choices and it certainly isn’t down to a poor fan reception. This judgement is more in relation to circumstance: founding member Pat Torpey passed away earlier this year (2018) after a battle with Parkinson’s Disease, thus leaving ‘Live In Milan’ as his final recording with Eric, Billy, Matt and Paul. Whilst it may have the potential to ultimately turn out as a superior quality release, the potential for a morbid, or nostalgic, status/prominence increase is always there.
Thankfully, any prominence, status or prestige earned is purely down to the ability and effort of Mr. Big.
With a tracklist which packs in a mix of high-octane shred-rock, soul-tinted blues, AOR style ballads and offerings from their latest studio release ‘Defying Gravity’, ‘Live In Milan’ certainly pulls its weight and doesn’t come up short when standing shoulder to shoulder with the band’s discography.
As you would expect, the adrenaline pumping ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover and Little Boy’, complete with obligatory Power-tool fuelled theatrics (Electric Drill powered Guitar/Bass solo) kicks things off. The surging pace from Billy Sheehan’s mind-bending bass, Paul Gilbert’s precision riffing and Eric Martin’s dynamic displays of vocal versatility hit the spot. Despite Torpey’s struggles with illness, he and fellow drummer Matt Starr handle the percussive side of things just fine. ‘Alive And Kickin”, ‘Just Take My Heart’ and sappy ballad anthem ‘Be With You’ are all present (as expected). The show superbly shifts gears, ebbing and flowing to match the energy of the material – speeding up with rock, easing up with some heartfelt blues/ballads and capping the display with the kind of technical absurdity which simply leaves you slack jawed and dumbfounded. ‘Live in Milan’ pulls out all the stops.
Big vocal moments, virtuoso spotlight sections, audience participation and appreciation… Mr. Big manage to cram in everything that makes them special, reminding everyone that if you want an explosive live show, Mr. Big do not disappoint. They’re doing the festival rounds this summer too!
‘Live From Milan’ is out now via Frontiers Music SRL