When Mr. Big released their self-titled debut album in 1989, I thought for sure that they were going to be the next big thing. In 1991, they nearly proved me right when their second album, Lean Into It, spawned the number one hit single, "To Be With You," and the album climbed to number fifteen on the Billboard 200 album chart, before eventually going platinum.
Anchored by one of the most versatile and talented bassists on the planet, in Billy Sheehan, along with virtuoso guitar-shredder, Paul Gilbert, the band is rounded out by veteran drummer Pat Torpey, and vocal powerhouse Eric Martin. Martin is one of the most underrated singers in the business, and his gritty, soulful vocals remind me a lot of Paul Rodgers - which is pretty good company to be in. Mr. Big's unique combination of virtuoso instrumental technique, catchy hooks and melodies, and impressive four part vocal harmonies, are what really set them apart from most other bands of the same era.
Ahhh, but we all know what happened in 1991. Nirvana released Nevermind, Pearl Jam released Ten, and grunge was on its way to conquering the world, while leaving a trail of crumpled hair metal bands in its wake. Mr. Big certainly felt the brunt of this impact, but their downfall was due more to internal strife within the band, which led to a couple of mediocre follow-up albums in 1993's Bump Ahead, and 1996's Hey Man.
In 1997, the guys eventually went their separate ways to focus on solo projects. When they decided to reunite in 1999 for their 10th anniversary, guitarist Paul Gilbert declined the offer. Mr. Big decided to carry on with guitar-shredder, and former Poison replacement, Ritchie Kotzen, who played on the band's next two albums, Get Over It, and Actual Size. Although the band's popularity in the U.S. dramatically declined during this period, they remained hugely popular in most of Asia, and especially Japan, where they continued to have major chart success and sell out large arenas. This version of the band eventually called it quits in 2002.
Back To Budokan comes on the eve of Mr. Big's Next Time Around reunion tour of 2009, which reunited the four original band members for a successful tour of Europe and Asia. The DVD was filmed in front of a sold-out crowd at the Tokyo Budokan on June 20th, 2009, where the band rips through a 20-plus song, nearly two and one half hour, set.