Review by Monty Sewell for MPM
On a frost-bitten Saturday night in Camden Town, London, Kip Winger turns to his percussion accompanist and support act Robby Rothschild and says, “I told you about this crowd didn’t I?
This audience is the shit! I missed you guys.” It’s hard to tell who is more excited, Kip himself or the fans who, from their ongoing adoring reactions, have unquestionably sat on the edge of their seats just waiting for that chance to bask in his live performance over the past 3 years.
Rothschild performs an endearing introduction to the show with songs from his newly released EP. He introduces himself with a mixture of melancholy and humour, his likeable persona acting as a prospective for the show to come. As Rothschild’s show comes to its end the room begins to fill.
I squeeze my way to a good spot at the front amongst the die-hards feverishly discussing their favourite Kip Winger era and the long haired nostalgia’s wanting to grab on to the glory that’s left of the 1980s metal heyday.
As Rothschild loses the guitar and sits at the minimal percussion set on the right hand side of the stage, it’s clear this is a different kind of show. Winger takes the stage in a buttoned down shirt and tinted glasses with the relaxed composure of a rockstar who has come home to play an intimate gig for friends and family.
Regardless of the screams to play his lesser inputted material, Winger begins with ‘Cross’ taken from his solo 2001 ’Songs From The Ocean Floor’. The original twenty musician input of the album is minimised to just Winger on his custom 12 string guitar and Rothschild on the Djembe drum.
Though it loses no impact, with a beautifully engineered stadium sound within the hundred capacity venue. A warmed up crowd ready to go, Kip dives into the ‘Winger’ material that turns a gently swaying sea of rockers into an abundance of loving fans. The duo rip through the classics, churning out ‘Easy Come Easy go’, ‘Rainbow In The Rose’ and ‘Miles Away’, to name a few.
The easy going modesty of the Grammy nominee is never undercut, with the introduction of ‘Can’t Get Enough’ consisting of “I stole this line from Bad Company but I made a shit load of money from it, so here is it!”. It’s that kind of wonderful, untampered with integrity which, mixed with plentiful swearing, that appears to make Wingers’ acoustic shows what they are. In short, you can’t help but love the guy.
A beautifully executed instrumental ‘Free’ captures the audience before Winger stays true to his word of “I take requests” and plays everything from ‘Ever Wonder’ to ‘Nothing’. It becomes clear that Winger revels in these intimate performances; a chance to really connect with his audience and give them what they want to hear. Good luck to anyone trying to get a setlist before the show is over.
Winger then jumps on the keyboard for two of his solo songs with Rothschild, as dedicated as ever, accompanying with his set up consisting of a djembe, Cajon and high-hat. It’s then a pick-n-mix of Winger and Kip Winger tracks coming in strong with ‘Under One Condition’, ‘So Long China’ and ‘Down Incognito’.
The idol of the ‘Blind Revolution’ then calmly demonstrates his fiery captive hold over all there as ‘Madalaine’ is sung word for word not by Kip, but by a fist-pumping audience.
This momentum carries over into ‘Seventeen’ and it’s a sterling finale. Not even announcing this as the final number, Kip states the end of the show and departs with Rothschild. Even after twenty two songs it strangely seems too soon. A view clearly shared with the crowd as they murmur amongst themselves, stood still in their stance. Then, in all of his unassuming swagger, Winger reappears with his solo rendition of ‘Spell I’m Under’. It’s the way his unwavering vocals wrap their way around each stretch that keeps the facade of a larger production alive.
It’s a wonderful end to a gig I almost feel ashamed to not have seen before. Winger appears to have a stronghold here in London, a dedication, a yearning. If he stays true to his word that he’ll “bring the band back” next September (“UK November is too cold for me!”) then it’ll no doubt bring the same Kip Winger love on a larger scale, in a larger venue. And let me tell you something, the crowd can’t wait.
Photography by Jon Theobald for MPM