Kip Winger live in London 2021

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Even though this was probably the least polished solo show I have seen from Kip, in some ways it felt like the most precious

London: Black Heart – 27 December 2021

Opening for Kip Winger is his friend Robbie Rothschild who is very up front about only just starting doing live gigs in his career. He only played a few songs which had the green shoots of some promising things. When he belts out the notes he reminds me of Kip vocal technique-wise, which is a good thing, and he employed some unusual Folk rhythms which were interesting. However, I really wasn't sure about rhyming "Blossum" with "Possum" and he seemed to be making up his second song as he went along complete with cat on a hot tin roof high notes - at the very least it was an unfinished work. I wasn't sure if the comic notes were intended or not, but he made people smile. People are undoubtedly impatient to see Kip and Rothschild takes the good-natured heckling pretty well, showing he is a good sport and perhaps has the resilience to become a seasoned performer.

Kip organised this gig last minute and so there is no merch and an air of a hastily pulled together show. However, people were so happy to see one of their favourite Americans with the balls to come over to the UK in the middle of the Pandemic that any faux pas such as forgotten words for songs done in response to requests were accepted and quickly forgotten. He did seem a little rusty to me and did mention that he was warming up vocally. However, the family atmosphere (complete with the family oddballs like Samir continually shouting 'Time To Surrender' even though Kip never does it in an acoustic setting) make for an intimate and even Christmas party-style atmosphere which makes the gig seem special.

Certainly the well-known and much loved Winger songs such as 'Easy Come Easy Go' and 'Can't Get Enough' go down extremely well. They are more Bluesy with an additional exotic feel created by the Moroccan style rhythms of the bongo drums. When Kip does the high note in 'Hungry' it goes into the stratosphere and we get a glimpse of what he is capable of vocally. Instead of inviting an audience member up to duet on 'Miles Away' (probably due to Covid) the whole crowd joins in to singing the harmonies as appropriate to their voice. There are plenty of women in the audience as well as men and quite a few couples. When someone shouts "Phrygian scale" after something from the 'Songs From The Ocean Floor' album I am also reminded that Winger tends to attract nerds in a kind of musically snobby way (I mean, the man is Grammy nominated for his Classical work).

As well as playing the well-known ones like 'Madalaine', 'Seventeen' and 'Under One Condition', he plays a number of lesser known and lesser played tracks like 'Nothing' and 'Ever Wonder' on a whim from requests from the audience, taking the time to find out people's names and dedicate the track to them personally, which both surprised and delighted them. He was willing to attempt songs he had not played for a long time, even if it meant he needed to google the words for 'So Long China', and elicited a laugh when he could not read a line and sang "I can't read that small" instead. He rang the changes by playing keyboards for 'Where Will You Go'.

He can be a notorious perfectionist and I have personally seen him rushing round red-faced in a panic on MORC when he thought things were not ready for a show. However, he seems to be far more relaxed tonight. I guess the Pandemic has taught us all we need to go with the flow a little bit more. If he was in any doubt as to how the show was going the chant "Kip, Kip, Kip, Kip" spontaneously from the crowd must have told him that with this crowd he can do no wrong. Indeed on the next track immediately afterwards 'Heading For A Heartbreak' I hear that exquisite falsetto I came to hear. By the time of 'Down Incognito' people are singing and dancing and things are in full swing. For an encore Kip relented and sang 'Spell I'm Under', even though it required a re-tune and it sounded like it was one he had not revisited for a while.

Even though this was probably the least polished solo show I have seen from Kip, in some ways it felt like the most precious, as these days you never know when you see an artist if and whether you will ever see them again. The audience for these show are always full of die-hards and hopefully it will give him a revitalizing shot in the arm; we all need appreciation and gigs have been thin on the ground for the last two years. Apparently he is not deterred from coming to the UK in difficult circumstances as he announces he will be back next year in September with his whole band. One thing is for sure, so will his audience.

Dawn Osborne

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