Kip Winger’s acoustic shows at the Borderline, now billed as the 5th Annual Evening with Kip Winger, have become legendary events, not just from an ever growing number of diehard fans, but from the artist himself, who bounded on stage with a big relaxed grin that could not have been more removed from the moody, smouldering figure of old Winger MTV videos, with his first words being how much he loved the place (expletives deleted).
There had already been an enjoyable aperitif from one of his old sparring partners, Fiona (Flanagan), just as at the show two years ago. Opening with the title track from 1992’s ‘Squeeze’, she covered the whole of her career, backed by a primarily acoustic band. However Jeff Scott Soto guitarist Jorge Salan had not read the script as he shredded his way through electric solos that enlivened the likes of ‘You Better Wait’ and ‘Running Out Of Night’ but were at odds with the gentle musical backing.
The New Yorker herself is an endearing character who one of my friends described as ‘like a sexy auntie doing karaoke at a wedding’, and played a couple from her comeback album ‘Unbroken’ although a rather ragged ‘Loved Along The Way’ was too close to Jefferson Starships’s ‘Jane’ for comfort.
She ended an all-too-short 35 minute set with a trio of debut album songs that took me back to hearing them some 30 years ago on the Friday Rock Show in a bluesier ‘Talk To Me’, ‘Love Makes You Blind’ which I had not previously realised was on a film soundtrack and ‘Hang Your Heart on Me’.
The Kip Winger shows here are just as much about his interaction with an adoring crowd as the artist himself so, after opening with a solo effort in ‘Cross’, the tone of the evening was set when the crowd took over huge parts of the singing on ‘Easy Come Easy Go’ and ‘Can’t Get Enuff’.
Most of the hallmarks of these shows were still there; the phone calls to fellow bandmates, though only Winger drummer Rod Morgenstein was on hand to answer, name checks to individual high-profile fans (though some, notably a vocal Danish contingent, were in danger of thinking the show was more about them than the artist); and the invitation to an audience member to duet on mega ballad ‘Miles Away’, in this case a long-haired chap called Pete who nailed the high notes with ease.
However there were a few tweaks to the format. A percussionist, Ben Hans, spent most of the set on stage and filled out what could have been a sparse sound with just Kip’s acoustic guitar, and he seemed to spend less time on this occasion telling anecdotes about the old days or updating us on future plans. Fiona and band also joined him on stage for a great version of the Winger ballad neglected by playlisters, ‘Under One Condition’.
The set stuck fairly closely to fan favourites, ranging from the obvious such as ‘Hungry’ and ‘Down Incognito’ to numbers such as ‘Rainbow In The Rose’ and ‘Headed For A Heartbreak’, which, deprived of their usual elaborate instrumentation, really demonstrated the depth of songwriting from a man unfairly written off at the time as part of the vacuous hair metal movement.
There were a few unusual numbers, including ‘California’ from his ‘Sun and the Moon’ album, but the crowd shouted for a number of obscurities only to be disappointed. I wonder if Kip might have mentally filed some of them away to spend the next 12 months preparing in order to make the next event even more special for the diehard fans.
For my own part, I would like to have heard more than just ‘Deal With The Devil’ from the last three Winger albums, but a real highlight of the night was ‘Spell I’m Under’, ironically only played after a song choice was determined by the toss of a coin, but with Kip investing his heart and soul and letting out a big scream.
A party hardy crowd was in full voice as Kip closed with first album favourites ‘Madelaine’ and ‘Seventeen’, whose questionable lyrics are now obscured by a running gag of updating the age of his object of desire, which now stands at 44. Fiona and band then returned for a fun reprise of her late eighties duet with him, ‘Everything You Do (You’re Sexing Me)’.
As he graciously hung round to meet and greet fans, including several I recognised as guest vocalists at previous shows, I was already looking forward to the 6th annual evening, albeit wondering whether it has now outgrown this small venue.
Review and Photos by Andy Nathan
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