Every once in a while it’s great to be reminded of the nice guys in rock. And where Kip Winger is concerned it’s hard to imagine any nicer.
Here’s a singer who could have packed in playing the music he loves a long time ago. Ridiculed on one of the biggest cartoons of its kind in the early 90s for nothing more than excelling in the lighter side of metal, he stuck to his guns.
When Winger ceased making commercial sense the band’s driving force might have been forced to mothball his band for a few years but he never lost sight of his roots or inspiration.
And when the time was right the singer, bass player, keyboardist and consummate performer came back all guns blazing with the same killer tunes and ‘take me as you find me’ philosophy which so divided the rock fraternity 20 years ago.
Crucially there’s a sense of integrity about Kip Winger in 2010. Hair metal is experiencing such a comeback that there’s a whole raft of acts from the late 80s and early 90s reforming, gigging and even recording. Five years ago who could have imagined Great White, Love/Hate, Tesla, Faster Pussycat, Enuff Z’Nuff and their ilk trekking all the way to Tyneside and playing to packed club size audiences?
That music is back in fashion but with Winger it was always more about the music than the image – whatever Beavis and Butthead might say. And unlike a good number of their peers this is a band still bursting with honest ambition, sensational new songs and an on-stage energy bands half their age would do well to match.
The four guys who took to a tiny Newcastle stage on Tuesday night weren’t doing it for the money – hell, they didn’t even have any merch after some kind of in-transit muck-up. And in the case of Whitesnake’s Reb Beach they can make a lot more elsewhere.
They’re not in it to trade on nostalgia despite a brilliant back catalogue – new album Karma is as good as anything we heard last year.
Maybe they’re in it to set the record straight and convince the MTV generation that they’re a great band after all.
But most of all they look like they’re in it to enjoy the thrill of the live show and see the whites of their fans’ eyes.
Kip Winger could have gone through the motions and still kept everyone inside Newcastle’s tight Academy II venue more than happy. He played the hits and the hits still sounded good.
But this was a show in every sense of the word. Delivered by showmen. With Kip to the fore.
The smile on his face was permanent. He found time to nip off stage mid-set and talk to a teenage fan wearing a Winger T-shirt. And he invited another fan on stage to belt out the Helter Skelter encore – happy to play second fiddle to a lad who was having the time of his life.
He chatted to local promoters, Academy staff, more and more fans and his mates on stage. And there was barely a note out of place. For someone who once shared a stage with Kiss, sold millions of records and enjoyed his status as a hair metal pin-up there was no hint of an ego and no sign of over confidence.
We’ve always loved Winger the band but now we truly respect Winger the man. A very nice man at that.