Extreme / Mr. Big
Enmore Theatre, Sydney 03/06/18
Review: Paul Southwell | Photos: Andrew Pittman

When it comes to virtuosity, guitarists Paul Gilbert and Nuno Bettencourt plus bassist Billy Sheehan remain solid contenders for reaching the pinnacle alongside Joe Satriani, Steve Vai and Yngwie Malmsteen. Whilst Los Angeles formed band Mr. Big have never previously toured Australia, Boston’s own Extreme were last here in 1993 although vocalist Gary Cherone toured in 1998 as the frontman of Van Halen

Tonight, Mr. Big started the double header playing old and new tracks showing off the powerful musical force of the four-piece. Billy Sheehan used his signature Yamaha bass through five bass speaker cabinets whilst Paul Gilbert mostly employed his fixed bridge, white signature Ibanez Fireman guitar powered by a Plexi Marshall stack. They both tore through an incredible array of synchronised parts, solid riffs and solo spots with good humour and unparalleled skill. 

Their abilities bolstered vocalist Eric Martin’s soulful voice and were always in time with quality drummer Matt Starr, filling in for the late Pat Torpey. Aside from the immensely entertaining unaccompanied solos, guitar highlights also included the dual plectrum fitted drills used during the opening track "Daddy, Brother, Lover, Little Boy" plus synchronised parts within both "Around the World" and "Open Your Eyes".  Various trade-off moments were interspersed throughout the set. The chemistry between band members along with incredible musicianship on display left the audience in no doubt that whilst Gilbert and Sheehan's styles have matured, their intensity remains intact.

Extreme had a formidable task to follow Mr. Big but live rigs of three large bass cabinets for bassist Pat Badger and two Marshall amplifier heads embedded within five speaker cabinets for guitarist Nuno Bettencourt indicated it was going to be loud. Once the four-piece hit the stage and unleashed material primarily from III Sides to Every Story and Pornograffitti with several tracks from other albums, Bettencourt's signature Washburn N4 guitar (with an amusing 4N sticker) copped a workout. Be it tapping excursions, wide interval runs, muted fast passages, a quick rendition of Van Halen's "Eruption" during "Cupid's Dead" or rapid fire licks within "Play With Me", complete with choreographed teases, Extreme owned the stage. 

Nuno Bettencourt's use of comical banter with the audience during acoustic segments and between rock songs plus with other band members including various sight gags showed their good attitude. Vocalist Gary Cherone was equally impressive whilst drummer Kevin Figueiredo kept the funky groove running smoothly. Guitar highlights included the technical mastery of "Flight Of The Wounded Bumblebee", the solo in "Get The Funk Out", the Jimi Hendrix vibe of "Rest In Peace" and judicious use of effects to coax some inspired guitar sounds. Top notch work from both bands.

Check out our full gallery of shots from Extreme and Mr. Big after the jump!