Home Gigs Gig Review : Winger Special Guests: Joel Hoekstra & Brandon Gibbs Islington Assembly Hall London

Gig Review : Winger Special Guests: Joel Hoekstra & Brandon Gibbs Islington Assembly Hall London

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Review and Photography by Manuela Langotsch for MPM

A night of Classic Rock was on the menu and 900 Music fans in a sold out venue were hungry.

Support act Joel Hoekstra and Brandon Gibbs’ performance was a dynamic showcase of guitar virtuosity and vocal excellence, captivating an audience eager for a night of exceptional rock music.

The duo’s setlist was a well-curated blend of original songs and classic rock covers. Opening with a rendition of ‘Boneyard’ by Devil City Angels, the musicians set the tone for an evening of exhilarating music. Their original compositions, such as “Until I Left You” and “This Town,” displayed their songwriting skills and were met with enthusiastic applause. ‘Every Rose has its thorn’, the well-known Poison ballad, was unsurprisingly a crowd pleaser and so were Whitesnakes’ ‘Is this love’ and ‘Here I go again’.

Joel Hoekstra, known for his work with Whitesnake and Trans-Siberian Orchestra, demonstrated his exceptional guitar skills throughout the night. His solos were both technically impressive and emotionally resonant, often earning spontaneous cheers from the crowd. Brandon Gibbs, with his powerful vocals and rhythm guitar, complemented Hoekstra perfectly. His voice, capable of both gritty rock tones and soulful melodies, added a rich layer to the performance.

‘Every Rose has its thorn’, the well-known Poison ballad, was unsurprisingly a crowd pleaser and so were Whitesnakes’ ‘Is this love’ and ‘Here I go again’. The audience were reminiscing their youth while singing along and knowing every word.

Both Hoekstra and Gibbs engaged warmly with the audience, sharing emotional family stories but also jokes between songs. This interaction created a sense of intimacy, making the concert feel personal and memorable. They also took time to acknowledge and thank their fans, fostering a strong connection with the crowd.

They delivered an outstanding performance that highlighted their individual talents and seamless collaboration. The set was a perfect blend of technical mastery and heartfelt performance, making it a standout event for rock enthusiasts. Their ability to connect with the fans and deliver a powerful live experience underscored why they are respected figures in the rock music scene.

Sadly the venue’s lighting was not up to scratch, as both musicians were either completely in the dark or blinded with too much bright light. It makes a photographer’s job very difficult.

The crowd was warmed up and ready for American rock legends Winger. The group, formed in the late 1980s and known for their melodic hard rock and metal, delivered a show that was both nostalgic and refreshingly energetic. It was their last ever UK show and they made sure that it was as memorable as humanly possible.

They kicked off the night with ‘Stick the Knife in and Twist’, a song from their latest album ‘Seven’ (2023) which marked the return of guitarist/keyboardist Paul Taylor to the band since 1990’s ‘In the heart of the young’. It instantly ignited the crowd’s enthusiasm. The band’s setlist was a well-balanced mix of their classic hits and newer material, satisfying long-time fans and newer listeners alike. Songs like ‘Headed for a Heartbreak’, ‘Miles Away’ (written by Paul Taylor) and ‘Can’t Get Enuff’ were standout moments, showcasing frontman Kip’s powerful vocals and the band’s tight instrumentation.

Kip Winger’s charismatic stage presence and vocal range were impressive throughout the concert, always stepping aside to let his bandmates shine during solos or proudly acknowledging them and banter with them. Guitarist (and occasional harmonica player) Reb Beach’s virtuosity was a highlight, with his solos eliciting roars of approval from the audience. The rhythm section, consisting of Rod Morgenstein on drums (who also delighted us with a solo) and Howie Simon (filling in for John Roth) on bass, provided a solid foundation, ensuring the band’s sound was both polished and powerful.

The band’s interaction with the audience was genuine, creating an intimate atmosphere despite the larger venue. Kip Winger frequently engaged with fans (he recognized some familiar faces), sharing anecdotes and expressing gratitude for their support over the past 35 years. Using a wireless head microphone for some of the show, he was able to move around the stage more, whilst singing and chatting to the audience.

Experiencing live music is always a thrill and when things go wrong it just shows their human sides. Both ‘Proud Desperado’ and the last song ‘Madalaine’ had to be restarted, with the latter even twice, as either a guitar cable was accidentally pulled out or Kip forgot the opening lyrics. Well, the crowd loved it of course. There also seemed to be some sound issues on a few occasions, but nothing dampened the spirit of the band or the audience.

Having toured for over 3 decades, Kip also thanked the backstage crew, who worked tirelessly to keep the shows going but didn’t want to get dragged out on stage. Bless them! The band tried their best.

The concert was a testament to Winger’s lasting impact on the rock scene. The band’s blend of technical skill, catchy songwriting, and engaging performance made for an unforgettable night. Whether you were reliving the glory days of ’80s rock or discovering Winger for the first time, the concert was a powerful reminder of the band’s enduring talent and appeal.

Again the lighting was not how it should be, with guitarist Reb Beach being in the dark for most of his solos and actually not being able to see his fingers on the guitar. He even complained about it at some point. Rightly so. Venues need to take note and do better.

Set List – Hoekstra & Gibbs

  1. Boneyard (Devil City Angels cover)
  2. Every Rose has its Thorn (Poison cover)
  3. Love ain’t no stranger (Whitesnake cover)
  4. Until I left you
  5. This Town
  6. Dirty deeds done dirt cheap (AC/DC cover)
  7. Is this Love (Whitesnake cover)
  8. Here I go again (Whitesnake cover)

Set List – Winger

  1. Stick the knife in and twist
  2. Seventeen
  3. Can’t get enuff
  4. Down incognito
  5. Proud desperado
  6. Junkyard dog (tears on stone)
  7. Hungry
  8. Miles away
  9. Rainbow in the rose
  10. Black Magic
  11. Pull me under
  12. Time to surrender
  13. Drum solo
  14. Headed for a heartbreak
  15. Easy come easy go
  16. Madaleine
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