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  • Writer's pictureMark Lear

Mr. Big & Jared James Nichols


KK's Steel Mill - Wolverhampton - You know someone big is in town when you get to the venue early and find the car park is rammed and they’re queueing around the first block and the one after that, such was the case tonight with Mr. Big in town and supported by Jared James Nichols who has a decent enough following of his own. KK’s Steel Mill is a big old barn of a place and it’s the first time in a while that I’ve seen all the partitions pulled back and it’s one big open arena, which is just as well as it’s a sell out such is the draw of tonight’s entertainment.

 

Tonight’s Support comes from a man who’s no stranger to these parts especially as he headlined on the exact same stage only a few months ago in October, where he made an awful lot of friends that night and following on from his stint as Support to The Winery Dogs in Nottingham, just three months before that. Nichols bounds on stage, all 6’ 5” of him with a huge amount of energy that’s infectious from the off. It’s a tried and tested set list - if you’ve seen him as much as I have recently - but if it’s not broken, you don’t fix it. ‘Easy Come, Easy Go’ is a great tune to start off with, followed by ‘Down the Drain’ which is a big favourite and raises the bar a good few notches - and only two tunes in.


‘Hard Wired’ from the latest album and ‘Threw Me to the Wolves’ from a few years ago now, sees ‘new’ bassist, Bryan Weaver, and ‘regular’ drummer, Ryan Rice, put their mark on things, complimenting Nichols guitar prowess to the fore - you can see why Gibson saw fit to make him only their fourth Global Ambassador and when you see who the other three are you know just how much respect this man commands. Every track sees him semi-perched on the monitors, with said Gibson presented high and proud and every string stretched to the limit screaming for dear life. It’s even more impressive when you know that he only uses fingers - not a pick in sight.

 

“How ya doing Wolverhampton, ya havin a good time” he eventually asks. KK’s roars its approval. He finishes with ‘War Pigs’ just like he did when he headlined. Not a tune that anyone else has had on previous nights of the tour apparently, but he must have been told that it’s compulsory in these parts. Some would say it’s a brave move to play such an anthem in these parts and Wolverhampton might not be too generous or forgiving if he crucified it - but he didn’t - like the last time. Technically, this isn’t his crowd and a full KK’s doesn’t suffer fools very well but they are receptive as a huge cheer goes up at the sound of the first few bars and even more so when they’re invited to air clap and sing - which they do. Loudly. Very loudly. It’s a blinding way to finish things off.


And there we have it. You just can’t knock this man skills as a Support because of the sheer amount of effort he puts in. It might not be his audience but many of them will be now. Oh, and if any of his fans thought he might have lost some of his talent because of the severe haircut (self-inflicted apparently) they’d have been wrong. Nichols was as brilliant as ever and Wolverhampton were in full appreciation.

 

Set List

Opener - Urgent (Foreigner)

  1. Easy Come, Easy Go

  2. Down the Drain

  3. Hard Wired

  4. Threw Me to the Wolves

  5. Skin 'n Bone

  6. Bad Roots

  7. Good Time Girl

  8. War Pigs

 

Now, thirty minutes of queueing at the bar before Mr. Big make their entrance.

 

…which they do at the duly allotted hour. Martin, Sheehan and Gibson stroll on stage to huge cheer and drummer D’Virgilio sneaks in on the blindside, letting the original members of the band take the accolades that have been forty years in the making.

 

Now, this is one fair old poke of a tour, having already taken in plenty of dates in Asia and South America, before the band arrive on the European leg, and there are only four dates in the first part of the UK tour, so whoever is responsible for Wolverhampton claiming a share of these spoils deserves a medal. There are plenty more dates in the UK in July, but only after the band have seen most of Europe and the States. So, 40 years, 7 members, 9 albums, 14 live albums and the best part of a dozen and a half singles all come together for one last blast, including every track of 1991’s ‘Lean Into It’. Let’s do it.

 

The strains of The Ramones ‘Blitzkrieg Bop’ die out, the lights dim, and Sheehan plays the first notes, Gilbert joins in, Wolverhampton starts to bounce and ‘Addicted to That Rush’ sets the tone for the whole evening.


Only one song down but Martin takes a breath and takes a moment to acknowledge and dedicate the next song to Pat Torpey, the fourth ‘original’ member of the band who died some six years ago now from complications of Parkinson’s disease. Interestingly, his last show with the band was just down the road at the Wulfrun Hall. Due respect is given by the good and kind people of Wolverhampton and the band respond with ‘Take Cover’ followed by ‘Price You Gotta Pay’ which sees Martin play Sheehan’s bass whilst stood behind him leaving Sheehan to play the harmonica just before the first of Gibsons many solos !

 

Now, the scene has been set, the band and the audience are suitably warmed up, and so we begin the first track from the album ‘Lean Into It’ which we are going to hear from start to finish, starting with the opening track ‘Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)’.

 

It’s ‘Green Tinted Sixties Mind’ that started to show off the sublime harmonies that the band really became known for, and it was good to see that Martin was back on form again. A couple of nights ago he was a little rough around the edges by all accounts, even to the point where rumours were abound that the odd show or two might have to be cancelled. Thankfully, this wasn’t the case and tonight Martin was on form. Gilbert’s subtle solo brings the tune to a close, but straight away he opens up again for ‘CDFF Lucky This Time’ (Can’t Don’t Fight It for the uninitiated) but it’s Sheehan’s twin necked bass that draws all the attention still in what is his trademark blue.


‘Voodoo Kiss’, which you can’t help breaking into Love in an Elevator territory at times, or is that just me ? ?, ‘Never Say Never’ which has a huge lick for Gibson in the middle and an even bigger ‘O O O O’ section that screams audience participation or football terrace, take your pick, are ripped through at what seems like breakneck speed before Martin puts a stop to it all and tells us that “it’s time to get all romantic”. Gibson leads the way with a cheeky little opener, before the others join in, in subdued fashion leaving the vocals take over and not just from Martin but from the crowd who are in fine voice tonight. ‘Just Take My Heart’ is a fine rock ballad that defines the era that it came from.

 

‘My Kinda Woman’, Martin tells us, is from 1989 but it sat on a shelf for a couple of years until 1991 when it was time to dust it off. “They never really play this one but may be its time” - well, it’s not as if they can leave it out if they’re playing the whole album in its entirety. ‘Road to Ruin’ is boogie time apparently, according to Martin. “She took me down the road to ruin - oh oh oh oh - all join in now”. I love an anthem and so did Wolverhampton.

 

Time to take a breath whilst Martin introduces the band. “Paul Gilbert is a handsome looking devil, Nick D’Virgilio is not a virgin anymore as he’s been with the band for many, many years now, from Whitesnake is Michele Luppi on BV’s, and Billy is the baddest MF bassist, there is” !

 

This was the cue for their biggest hit. Released in 1991, ‘To Be With You’ got to No.1 in 12 countries, but only managed No. 3 in the UK - you can thank Shakespear’s Sister for that - and it was also the cue for the best part of 200 cameras and torches to be raised high in the air. Martin barely had the chance to get the first line out before Wolverhampton took over with the kind of singing just puts a smile on your face. Unbridled joy and no one was going to stop them. They’d waited patiently for this and weren’t going to be disappointed. The choir fest continued with a cover of Cat Stevens ‘Wild World’, with Gilberts subtle acoustic interspersed nicely enough with Martin who had donned an acoustic too.


Time to put the subtlety away for a while now though, and for the rest of the band to leave the stage - except Gilbert as he was the first entrant in the solo competition. Now this is very much Sheehan territory but let’s see how he gets on. Start the clock.


It’s a fine attempt 6m 53s but the last time I saw Sheehan, he hit seven minutes easy.

 

With all the band back on stage, we break with the solos for ‘Colorado Bulldog’ which sees D’Virgilio produce a punching, racing backbeat, with enough space for Gilbert and Sheehan to feed off each other, complement each other, taking each other to task. The crowd love this, and egg them on with clapping and cheering until the end when the band takes their leave for the second time …except Sheehan. Now it’s his turn. So, if you’re standing comfortably then he’ll begin…

 

At 7m 45s, there was no contest really. Sheehan is known for it and Sheehan wasn’t about to let anyone down.

 

With all the band back on for the last time we head for a powerful finish starting with ‘Shy Boy’ which sees Sheehan on vocals and both our guitarists sharing the spoils with twin solos sat on top of each other. Big harmonies again at the beginning for ‘Thirty Days in the Hole’ before the Wolves take over and the title is repeated over and over again.

 

Billed as ‘Switcheroo’ so called because they all swap instruments, D’Virgilio with Gibson and Sheehan with Martin, our penultimate song is a cover of The Olympics ‘Good Lovin'’. Sheehan takes the lead vocal and commands the Wolves assist him one last time.

 

‘Baba O’Riley’ is the final track. D’Virgilio invites hands to be held high and at his direction brought together, Martin has taken his place aside him and dictates the tempo on the floor toms. Gilbert riffs out whilst Sheehan’s bass drones as the pace picks up. Everyone takes their moment as the song extends into what must be the 12” version if ever there was one. The crowd are nestled in the palm of the bands hands and play their part to perfection bringing the night to a close. All that’s left is for the band to take their bows to rapturous applause and that’s it. Game over. Insert coin. Forty years, gone in two hours.

 

Set List

Addicted to That Rush

Take Cover

Price You Gotta Pay

Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy (The Electric Drill Song)

Alive and Kickin’

Green-Tinted Sixties Mind

CDFF-Lucky This Time

Voodoo Kiss

Never Say Never

Just Take My Heart

My Kinda Woman

A Little Too Loose

Road to Ruin

To Be With You

Wild World

Colorado Bulldog

Shy Boy

30 Days in the Hole

Good Lovin’

Baba O’Riley

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