Paul Gilbert thinks freeform guitar solos are “pretty dangerous” – but he’s brought them back for Mr. Big’s farewell tour anyway

Paul Gilbert performs onstage with Mr. Big at the O2 Shepherd's Bush Empire in London on November 19, 2017
(Image credit: C Brandon/Redferns)

Earlier this year, electric guitar hero Paul Gilbert revealed to Guitar World that he was planning to bring freeform guitar solos back into his onstage repertoire for the first time in years. 

The occasion was Mr. Big's farewell tour, which kicked off last month in Japan.  

Thanks to the wonderful powers of the internet, footage of Gilbert's solo spots from the tour's first few shows have already begun surfacing. One prime example – from Mr. Big's July 22 gig at the Maruzen Intec Arena in Osaka – can be seen below.

In a recent interview with Guitar Techniques, Gilbert said, in regards to preparing for the Mr. Big solo spots, he was focused on “how to be alone on stage and not sound like Nigel Tufnel.“

Though he added in the same interview that he was “a bit rusty with the artform“ of freeform soloing, the below example sounds neither rusty nor like Nigel Tufnel.

Granted, it's not a display in minimalism, either – if you came to see lightning-speed licks played with awe-inspiring right-hand precision, you won't leave disappointed. After he gives the appreciative crowd some of what they paid for, though, the virtuoso takes things in a more melodic direction, nodding to the classic Mr. Big power ballad Nothing But Love along the way.

Speaking to Guitar World earlier this year about the return of his onstage solos, Gilbert said, “I haven't been in the world of freeform guitar solos in a long time, especially as a teacher. With teaching, I've got to show people structure, locking into a groove, and paying attention to the song.

“Honestly,“ Gilbert went on, “all of that has made me realize that the freeform stuff can be pretty dangerous, but at the same time, I think it could be time to bring it back.“

From the looks of it, we'd say Gilbert made the right call...

For a full list of Mr. Big's tour dates – during each of which the group will perform their 1991 album, Lean into It, in its entirety – visit the band's website.

Speaking of Lean into It, you can read our recent story on the good luck and creative chaos that marked the hit album's creation.

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Jackson Maxwell

Jackson is an Associate Editor at He’s been writing and editing stories about new gear, technique and guitar-driven music both old and new since 2014, and has also written extensively on the same topics for Guitar Player. Elsewhere, his album reviews and essays have appeared in Louder and Unrecorded. Though open to music of all kinds, his greatest love has always been indie, and everything that falls under its massive umbrella. To that end, you can find him on Twitter crowing about whatever great new guitar band you need to drop everything to hear right now.