Despite a busy year for Winger, with the band touring the new Better Days Comin album as recently as June, Kip Winger’s London shows have now become an annual fixture in the calendar. As a bonus on this occasion one of his former collaborators, Fiona (Flanagan) was long for the ride in a support slot, by my reckoning the only UK show she has played other than 2012’s Firefest.
The impossibly petite East Coaster did a too short 40 minute set, which was meant to be acoustic, but alongside longtime collaborator Harry Reilly, Jeff Scott Soto guitarist Jorge Salan added some power to the likes of opener ‘You Better Wait’ with some tasty electric solos.
An engaging character when telling humorous stories around the songs and her time away from the music business raising family, her set covered the full range of her career, including the Benatar–esque ‘Talk To Me’ and ‘Hang Your Heart On Me’ (where perhaps attempting the higher notes was optimistic) from her debut and the insanely catchy ‘Ain’t That Just Like Love’.
Yet ‘Broken’ and ‘Loved Along The Way’ from her comeback album Unbroken lost nothing in comparison. Encores ‘Hearts Of Fire’ from her ill-fated film collaboration with Bob Dylan and Rupert Everett and a rocking ‘Running Out Of Night’ ended a set that left me and many other veterans of the eighties wanting more, which indeed we were to get later on.
As for Kip Winger, so successful have his acoustic evenings become that the evening had the air of an intimate reunion with friends as he spotted characters in the audience and greeted them, from Classic Rock’s Dave Ling to fanboy Samir, famous for singing Winger numbers in a high-pitched style the man himself likened to Michael Jackson. He is a dryly amusing character, self-deprecating and unrecognisable from the moody-looking figure who became a poster boy for (real or cartoon) detractors of the glam metal scene as the eighties turned into the nineties.
Despite opening with ‘Cross’ his more introspective solo work only formed about a quarter of the set with old Winger classics taking the lion’s share. With just one voice and an acoustic guitar to replicate the full band and big production of the originals this is not an easy thing to carry off, but Kip managed it with ease.
People were roaring along (too lustily so in the case of a fanatical Pole, Piotr, next to me) to the big choruses of the likes of ‘Can’t Get Enuff’ and ‘Easy Come Easy Go’ while the format really brought out the stark intensity of the songs from ‘Pull’ such as ‘Who’s The One’.
It was also interesting to see their more progressive moments such as ‘Headed For A Heartbreak’ and ‘Rainbow In The Rose’ given a stripped back treatment and far shorter for the absence of instrumental prowess.
Regulars will have recognised him repeat familiar formats in the manner of a TV game show host. As usual fans were brought out to join him for ‘Miles Away’, surely one of the classic ballads of the ‘hair metal’ era. This time it was a confident gentleman called Stan, even if I did spot him checking the lyrics on his phone. I later discovered, on one of his trips past me to and from the bar, he was from the Czech Republic, which might explain the copious quantities of lager he was drinking.
After last year’s call to Reb Beach, he also made calls on his cellphone (how he got such a clear signal in the notoriously poor reception of the bowels of the Borderline is a mystery to me!) , this time with live link ups to drummer Rod Morgenstein who was out shopping for organic sweets, and former Alice Cooper bandmate Kane Roberts whose response was considerably more rock n roll.
The middle of the set saw a departure from the standard setlist for the show as Kip took requests from a raucous crowd and essayed some lesser known tracks like ‘Daniel’, ‘Battle Stations’ from the Bill and Ted movie and even ‘Midnight Driver of a Love Machine’ from the current Winger album.
Back in familiar territory, the odd solo song such as ‘How Far Will We Go’, and a forgotten gem in a superb ‘Spell l’m Under’ gave way to sing-a-long-a Winger favourites like ‘Hungry’, ‘Down Incognito’, ‘Madelaine’ and ‘Seventeen’.
There was a final treat in store, which answered the question fans had been asking since the pairing was announced, as he brought Fiona and her band back for an excellent, fun version of ‘Everything You Do (You’re Sexing Me)’, the song from her Heart Like A Gun album he duetted with her on, which was a moment none of us thought we might ever see, and I dare say that neither did the two stars.
A heart-warming evening ended with both Kip and Fiona willingly staying for photos, signings and a chat in the rear area of the Borderline. This is rapidly becoming an umissable event on the melodic rock calendar. Who would have imagined back in Winger’s heyday that life with Kip Winger could be such fun?
Review and Photos byAndy Nathan
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