Kip Winger’s solo acoustic shows at the Borderline have began to take on such a mythical status that the promotional blurb for this year’s show even marketed it as the ‘4th annual evening with Kip Winger’.
It was noticeable that the crowd contained many of the same familiar faces from the first three, and it was clear from the moment Kip hit the stage armed only with acoustic guitar with a setlist taped to it, that another great night was in store as they roared along to opener ‘Easy Come Easy Go’. Indeed as he ended the song he remarked that the rapturous reception from an audience of diehard fans reminded him why he played these annual London shows.
More of Kip in a moment but there was also an intriguing support slot from Voodoo Vegas (a dreadful name btw reminiscent of a random ‘metal band name’ generator’. Singer Lawrence Case initially seemed not to have grasped the acoustic concept as he gave a full on rock vocal reminiscent of Skid Row’s Seb Bach on early songs like ‘Bullet’.
However the ballad ‘Lost In Confusion’ was far more suited to the format, while as the set wore on the country rock styled acoustic pickings of Meryl Hamilton and Jon Dawson and Lawrence’s harmonica playing gave the material a satisfyingly hard bluesy edge with hints of the Black Crowes or current contemporaries Bad Touch.
He was a self-confident frontman though his bumpkin style remarks were at times bizarre and while a flawed masterpiece their set was intriguingly promising.
As for Kip, well the format remained as before and, what makes these shows so special is not just hearing one of rock’s underrated catalogues played raw and unvarnished, but the bond between the artist and his fanatical fans. Indeed the film crew for the show spent as much time filming the crowd interaction as the on stage performance.
Incidentally, both on stage and off, he comes over as the antithesis of the moody pouting rocker for which he gained a reputation as he is relaxed, humorously self deprecating, and modest.
What also struck me this time was that the music somehow seemed more intense with Kip giving his all on the lies of ‘Who’s The One’ (one of four songs from Winger’s neglected masterpiece ‘Pull’) and even letting out a big scream on ‘Headed For A Heartbreak’. For several songs he was joined by a percussionist, the almost suitably named Ben Hans, which gave them a raw dimension almost like the White Stripes or Black Keys. One lucky punter also walked away with the box Ben was bashing.
The shouting out of obscure requests by diehard fans was again a feature of the show. A few like ‘Steam’ and ‘How Far Do We Go’ were played but only a fraction of those asked for. Interestingly Kip admitted that the setlists would always be based around Winger’s better known classics to get the best crowd reaction, and the response to the likes of ‘Hungry’, ‘Blind Revolution Mad’ and ‘Can’t Get Enough’ justified this. It was also great to hear the neglected ballad ‘Under One Condition’, played especially for Classic Rock’s Dave Ling.
Another trademark of these shows is Kip’s call to bandmates and Reb Beach, with whom he is promising to write more Winger material, was great value especially with a spot on impression of David Coverdale, who Kip later called only to find his number was unobtainable. However contact was made with Fiona Flanagan, who supported Kip last year, to wish her a happy birthday.
A traditional highlight is when he asks a member of the audience to duet on ‘Miles Away’ and a blonde lady from Surrey called Kirsty did herself proud with some very tuneful harmony singing on this classic ballad. Another character from all the shows is Winger fanatic Samir who was finally silenced when Kip played a snatch of ‘Time To Surrender’ from the debut album.
The intimate bond with the audience is what makes these shows so special: however, if I was to make a criticism, it is that the crowd interjections notably from a large and vocal group in the middle from Denmark sought to dominate the show and disrupted the flow of the gig too much.
It also left time rather short, and it was a bit disappointing not to hear anything from the last three Winger studio albums, all of which got an outing last time, and Kip was regularly checking if he was running beyond the curfew.
As a result the final songs felt a bit rushed although they were quality all the way with a passionate ‘Spell I’m Under’, ‘Down Incognito’, ‘Madelaine’ and ‘Seventeen’, with the lyric cheekily changed to ‘she‘s only 43’. After the show however Kip was patience and charm personified when meeting a large queue of fans.
It was another great night with one of rock’s underrated talents, and this is an annual event you should already mark off on your 2016 calendar.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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