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Mr. Big and The Smithereens Rock the Ryman in Nashville

by Rich and Laura Lynch

Mr. Big brought their big sound to the Ryman Auditorium on January 24, 2024. The Nashville, Tennessee stop was one of many on their aptly named The Big Finish Tour which promises the performance of the entire Lean Into It album. The 2024 line-up of Mr. Big features Eric Martin (vocals), Billy Sheehan (bass) and Paul Gilbert (guitar). Filling in on this outing for departed drummer Pat Torpey who passed in 2018 was the very capable Nick D'Virgilio (Spock's Beard, Steve Hackett, Fates Warning) who was solid behind his kit and on backing vox even if frontman Martin had trouble pronouncing his name.

Mr. Big were a really big deal in Nashville.

1991's Lean Into It was a major commercial breakthrough for the band with two ballads, "To Be with You" (which went to number one in fifteen countries) and "Just Take My Heart" along with the song "Green-Tinted Sixties Mind". Although better known for their hard rock sound Mr. Big charted again in 1993 with a cover of Cat Stevens "Wild World".

Mr. Big's ERIC MARTIN on stage at the Ryman Auditorium.

On the strength of Lean Into It they toured the UK in April and May of 1991, returning in 1992, and for three nights, Mr. Big opened for Aerosmith at London's Wembley Arena. They were also very popular in Asia where they frequently sold-out shows and they recorded a number of live albums at the legendry Budokan in Japan. Mr. Big broke up in the early 2000's but they remained in demand and would reform for a number of reunion tours over the years including this most recent incarnation that is scheduled to run through August of 2024.

Mr. Big's BILLY SHEEHAN on stage at the Ryman Auditorium.

Anticipation was high before the show and the band would deliver. Mr. Big rocked the rafters of the Ryman with a three pack of rousing numbers that included the riveting "Addicted to That Rush", "Take Cover" with its heavy hook and "Undertow". Next, was the Lean Into It record, so depending on your favorites the ballads may have been the pinnacle of the concert or perhaps the more bluesy and bold songs were for you. Either way most of the folks at the floor level were on their feet for the whole big sounding set.

Mr. Big's PAUL GILBERT on stage at the Ryman Auditorium.

Expansive jams, single and multi-part vocals gave their catalogue even more punch in the live setting. Another peak moment was "Wild World" flowing into Paul's sizzling guitar solo and soon after Billy's bass solo which is always a crowd pleaser as was "Shy Boy" (Talas). Mr. Big finished up with "30 Days in the Hole" (Humble Pie), "Good Lovin'" and The Who's "Baba O'Riley" having met the high expectations of their fans in Music City.

Mr. Big's NICK D'VIRGILIO on stage at the Ryman Auditorium.

In a special opening slot was The Smithereens who are well-known for their pensive yet powerful pop tunes that reflect their East-Coast roots-rock inspired by The Who, The Clash, Elvis Costello and Nick Lowe. They enjoyed much success in the 1980s and 1990s. Like the headliners, The Smithereens were down a beloved member named Pat.

Robin Wilson and Dennis Diken in Nashville.

It's true - The Smithereens are still a draw even after the passing of their distinctive lead singer and formidable founder Pat DiNizio in 2017. The Smithereens took full advantage of their one of appearance at the Ryman with a show packed with their most popular songs. The peppy "Top of the Pops" featured guest vocalist Bebe Buell who might be best known for her role in creating famed actress Liv Tyler.

Severo Jornacion and Jim Babjak rocked the Ryman Auditorium.

Robin Wilson from the Gin Blossoms aptly handled the leading man role and vocals as he is no stranger to the big stage and dishing out hit after hit to audiences with big expectations. What was missing was the inherent melancholy and expressive sad-tinged delivery that Pat perfected over the course of his chart-topping career with his bandmates from New Jersey. Still, we are glad that the group is still out there playing expanded versions of classics like "Behind the Wall of Sleep", "Green Thoughts", "Only a Memory", "House We Used to Live In", the beguiling "Blood and Roses", "A Girl Like You" and more. Towards the end of their solid set, they played an instrumental medley in tribute to The Who so both bands honored the English rockers in the venue best known for country music. But, that just adds to the ongoing history of the Ryman and be on the lookout for Mr. Big who may be coming to a town near you soon.

The Smithereens truly rocked the Mother Church with their jaw-dropping New Jersey rock.

Related Links: For more information on MR. BIG and the other organizations mentioned please visit the following links - Mr. Big | The Smithereens | Ryman Auditorium


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