Gig review: KIP WINGER- The Borderline, London, 21 September 2013

The overused media format ‘an evening with’ was for once an appropriate one to describe Kip Winger’s solo show  with a difference, from the moment he came on stage with a routine more suited to stand up comedy before strapping on his guitar and singing. The Borderline is also a perfect venue for the intimacy required of such a show, even if the maroon stage curtain and low lighting give it an almost bordello-like feel.

Obviously intelligent, he came over as less intense than I imagined,  and was self-deprecating about his past and the way Winger became the whipping boys for those who ridiculed hair metal from different ends of the spectrum. He built a rapport throughout with the audience, even having a neat way of dealing with a few present who were taking their ‘fanboydom’ to attention-seeking extremes.

Ah, but what about the music? His set covered all the significant songs from the first three Winger albums and the unplugged format brought out the strength of the songs: ‘Easy Come Easy Go’ and ‘Can’t Get Enuff’ lost little against their slickly produced original counterparts, and the more progressive moments like ‘Headed for a Heartbreak’ and ‘Rainbow In The Rose’ were given space to breathe.

However it was numbers such as ‘Who’s The One’ and ‘Spell I’m Under’, from the rootsier Pull album, that were perhaps best suited to the format. There was a pick apiece from the post-reformation Winger albums in the war- themed ‘Blue Suede Shoes’, and ‘Deal With The Devil’ which had people singing along lustily, and surprisingly few from his solo albums including ‘Steam’ and the instrumental ‘Free’.

Mobile phones are a curse of modern day gigging, be it people holding them up for poor quality photos and videos, or experiencing the show through social media rather than living in the moment. I know U2 did a contrived stunt calling the White House at their shows a while back, but I don’t think I’ve previously witnessed a performer using one.

However on this occasion Kip’s cellphone (as he would call it) was responsible for some of the gig’s memorable moments. He used it to play us some excerpts from the forthcoming Winger album but best of all called guitarist Reb Beach and after leaving a voice message, successfully got through again mid set for a live chat!

If there was a criticism it was virtually exactly the same set as he delivered at the same venue 12 months ago, and at Hard Rock Hell AOR, with no new  songs. However the cries, during his regular interaction with the crowd,  for more obscure Winger or solo compositions seemed to make their mark and I would be very surprised if he fails to make good on his promise to learn them for future solo tours.

After tradition was maintained by duetting on ‘Miles Away’ with a girl named Belinda plucked from the crowd, he joked that fellow ballad ‘Without the Night’ was essentially the same song and ‘Under One Condition’ completed a trio of killer ballads, before the set rocked to a close, with ‘Down Incognito’, ‘Madeleine’ and ‘Seventeen’, with mass sing-alongs from a Saturday night crowd. He was also good enough to hang round after the show to meet people.

While a new Winger album and tour will see him return to his ‘day job’ next ,a Kip Winger solo show is becoming an unmmissable event and it augurs well that he seemed to enjoy it so much he was promising to make this an annual show.

Review and photos by Andy Nathan

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