May 27, 2018
The Colony, TX USA
Review by Dave Gray
Photos by Rene Rivera
Winger Rides Through Texas On A Fast Track
Imagine a perfect setting; a holiday weekend, hot sun, cool breeze, plenty of refreshing liquids, and a sea of cool people chilling in the vibe of great music… That's what those who were here on Sunday evening enjoyed as Winger played to a capacity crowd at The Colony's Lava Cantina. Kip Winger and the boys had us all singing as they called to mind all the hits and some heavy rockers, too.
From the minute they hit the stage, it was non-stop. From the opening sirens of "Midnight Driver of a Love Machine", the band sprinted through the set. Honesty, I think they played the first seven songs without taking a breath. So, due to time constraints, a.k.a. a Sunday night city of The Colony curfew, the band took full advantage, it was full throttle for 75 minutes. Racing through the set, the heavier songs “Pull Me Under” and “Rat Race” were seemingly pace-setters, but the band also took time to shift gears. They performed the MTV and radio-friendly hits “Easy Come, Easy Go” and “Down Incognito”, which had basically everyone who attended singing out loud, very audibly, i.e. lots of crowd participation here tonight. I’d say the audience was basically a 50-50 split, guys to girls and the girls were definitely a part of the backing vocals tonight, a fun bunch.
Newly acquired rhythm guitarist Howie Simon did a really cool guitar solo, and accomplished drummer Rod Morgenstein (Dixie Dregs) had a few minutes to show off his percussion skills, but the musician that many came to see tonight was guitarist Reb Beach. For 30-plus years, this guy has been a driving force behind the Winger sound. Yes, he does do some backing vocals on most of the tracks, but he mostly lets his fingers do the talking onstage. His pull-offs, hammer-ons, and smooth string-to-string arpeggios have a very unique effect, and there aren’t many, if any, guitarists in the world that can float around the fretboard in this style like he can. I even heard girls screaming when he broke into the solo for “Heading for a Heartbreak”. It really must mean something to them as well. It is an incredible piece of work and he dubs the original record perfectly in a live setting. Pinch harmonics, whammy bar tricks, and the seemingly never ending, ear appealing melodic arpeggios really help to make this one of my favorite songs by the band, it’s complete.
Kip Winger is the heart and soul, the engine of the band. His musical writing skills, his lyrical talent, and the fact that you can actually hear the words he speaks in each song, and it makes sense logically, it really means a lot to me as a listener. He’s come a long way from being just a bass player in the Alice Cooper band. He said that he was quite impressed by the audience response tonight and even said that he’d maybe like to “move to Texas” someday (hell, he might as well, everyone else has). A solid performer (although he admitted to not being a very good keyboard player, and nobody believed him), he sat behind the keys and played “Miles Away”, another crowd favorite and vocal opportunity, and the aforementioned “Headed for a Heartbreak”. I remember in the eighties the band used to move around the stage rapidly, constantly (see YouTube). Maybe not so much tonight, but Kip was still roving around the stage a lot, hamming it up with Reb and Howie; he still has a lot of energy, and the music catalog he’s created over the years is much better.
As the evening drew near and after Reb Beach’s guitar solo, the band broke into “Seventeen”, in which Kip subbed the number “48” in the title’s place in the last chorus, meaning (I did the math) that the girl in the video is now 31 years older (and the song is too). At least she’s of legal age now, and this band, like a sexy sports car, has seemed to just get better with age.
The encore featured Kip handing off his bass guitar to a lucky fan/musician in the crowd, and then inviting him and Rod Morgenstein’s friend, local Metal Shop drummer, and breast cancer survivor April Samuels up on stage to do one final song. Kip, claiming that “the night wouldn’t be complete without a Van Halen song”, summoned the band to do “Ain’t Talkin’ ‘Bout Love” before coming to a rest amid the local aforementioned curfew. That’s okay. It was a great show. It’s a really cool live music venue. It’s a holiday weekend. Hell, it might be past our bedtime anyway…