There’s been a lot of talk about how tribute bands have ‘ruined’ the live scene, with an increasing number of places only putting on these kind of acts, playing tried and tested music from a classic artist instead of original artists, who may be younger, and will certainly be unknown. The solution is of course in the hands of the public, it’s up to them to turn out to support artists who are doing their own thing as opposed to somebody else’s. The Tivoli in Buckley hosts its fair share of tribute bands, but is one of the better venues for staging gigs from original artists, both newer and ‘heritage’. The management could explain why they put on tributes simply by comparing numbers who showed for this gig, against the much larger crowd they played host to the night before when AC/DC tribute LiveWire performed. Quite simply the tributes pay the bills – they bring in a crowd, and the crowd knows what they’re getting. The fact remains that a known ‘name’ in the business was playing the ‘Tiv’ the next night which did not draw the punters in anything like as many numbers, though, and that’s a shame since the solo performance from Mr Big vocalist Eric Martin here was a truly special evening indeed.
I was here with a friend and two of her children, the eldest sibling often accompanies her mother to gigs. Before we got to the main act, there was an opening band in the form of B4 Time. Although the main act was to perform acoustically, there was a complete set up of drum kit and amps for this band, a quartet who played a set comprising mostly covers from quite a variety of bands, ranging from the Wildhearts to Metallica (!) The band are three guys of ‘a certain age’ shall we say, but backed by a girl drummer. I’d guessed the girl was one of the guys’ daughters, which was confirmed by their singer/guitarist late in the set. The band were actually pretty enjoyable, and as was the case with the last time I was here (when The Clan opened for Martin Turner), they benefitted from a good sound balance.
They completely stripped the stage after that set, leaving just a table and a couple of microphones on stands, for when Eric Martin came on accompanied by another player in Dave Cotterill. The performance was informal, to say the least and featured a number of deeper cuts from Mr Big and other stuff he’s done, including a burst of ‘Sucker For A Pretty Face’ from the Eric Martin Band’s 1983 album of that name. There was more familiar stuff to, including a cover of Cat Stevens’ ‘Wild World’ as well as a few of his main band’s hits. The ballads ‘To Be With You’ and ‘Just Take My Heart’ were performed, as well as an impressive acoustic take on ‘Daddy Brother Lover Little Boy’. No electric drills this time, but the lead solo on acoustic was played impeccably by Dave Cotterill. He found himself acting as tech for the main man on several occasions, helping him tune or in one instance, actually taking the guitar and tuning it for him while Eric engaged in banter with the front row. There wasn’t much beyond that front row in truth, this was a crowd best described as ‘exclusive’. He also gave a shout-out to former Mr Big guitarist Richie Kotzen, telling us to go and see him if we get the chance. (We got the chance in the summer, Eric and I was one of those who took it!) The duo then performed (if memory serves me correctly) ‘Electrified’ from one of the albums that band made with Kotzen, ‘Get Over It’.
It was a great night of music performed with humour and style, and Martin was sounding in splendid voice all night. The acoustic style suits him, and he did say that he’d love to come back here again despite the disappointing turnout. The night got even better following this show however. I and my companions waited around for a short while in the hope Eric would appear; we were about to call it a night when he came down to the floor to greet the few who’d stayed around. He settled at a table near the bar, and gave an impromptu meet and greet, but he sprang a real surprise when he was asked about the Mr Big song ‘Take Cover’. The duo did not perform it in the set, but when he found out it was a favourite of my friend’s young son (who was here this night with us) – he asked Dave to fetch the guitars, and the two of them played it, at the bar, where they stood. This was a fantastic gesture, from a guy who’s been on the biggest stages, played to huge crowds the world over, and yet he can grant a wish like that for one young boy. By doing that he transformed the night from merely very good to truly special, the hallmark of a genuine rock star.
To conclude then, yes enjoy a tribute gig if that’s what you want but do try and support artists who are still out there doing their own thing too. After all, as this showed, you never know what surprises you might get!