As the lights went down in the city (okay, a cheap Journey reference sorry) and the lights began to raise on the stage of the Mississippi Moon Bar in Dubuque, IA a lone man with an aqua guitar took the stage. Kip Winger was his name and he was there it make his presence known, but did he?
I can assure you he did so and in a way I never really expected. Certainly the long haired, scruffy bearded late '80's hair metal specialist surprised me when he came out with shorter hair and not a single other person accompanying him. Flashbacks to that era where every girl I seemed to meet thought he was the reason the sun rose and set and the dismissive comments, no strike that the defensive comments began. Every boy, teen and man seemed to think that Winger was just a pretty face and often we forgot what a good musician he was.
Lets flash forward to March 15th, 2012 and to the aforementioned Mississippi Moon Bar at the Diamond Jo Casino in Dubuque, IA and the appearance of Mr. Winger, the solitary Mr. Winger. Honesty is the best policy and I must admit that I assumed that his appearance as a solo act might be just a bit scary. Surely the lack of a backup band would have to make for a scary show but nothing could have been further from the truth.
As he took the stage there was some amount of communication between himself and the audio techs (I swear I am some severe pariah to those poor souls) as he tried to get the levels right to his liking. As Winger began to play, the man I remembered from the '80's began to develop before my eyes.
Although its apparent we have all gotten a bit older, Winger still didn't disappoint. Despite the fact that I had to be reminded I saw him in concert before (quite the tour it was, he and his band were on tour with KISS) I really liked this performance. It's been said that the truest way to judge a musician is through their performance using only an acoustic guitar and it would be a reflection of the artist him /her self. Winger showed a mastery of his chosen craft with selections from several different albums spanning his impressive career.
Of the songs he performed several past hits rang through his solo act including "Heading for a Heartbreak", "Seventeen" and "Miles Away" and some other selections that weren't as well known (except for the most ardent Winger Fan) such as "Blue Suede Shoes" and "Free". Although the two latter songs are not as well known, I absolutely loved both of them.
Blue Suede Shoes is a song dedicated to the men and women of the US Armed Forces and is a phenomenal song live (studio version as well). Having not heard the song before last evening I decided to listen to the song on Winger's Reverbnation account here. The song is stirring, and has this feeling of sacrifice while classical guitar and synthesizers meld into a haunting tale. The song is so powerful as recorded but I can tell you that hearing it live in this setting, made the song even more powerful. It was absolutely brilliant.
As Winger began to talk about the song "Free" I was intrigued, and not necessarily because I hadn't heard the song previously but because he told us it was an instrumental. This song showed the quality of the musician Winger truly is. First of all I love the band "Dream Theater" and this song feels so much like one of their songs. Instrumentals never seem to be the fan favorites but this song is one of mine.
Kip Winger is certainly an enigma in the annals of music. His band "Winger" was reviled by "Beavis and Butthead", and he had a member of a metal "super-group" throw darts at his poster in one of their videos but Winger is so much more than that. Winger is a survivor, but more importantly he is a gifted performer. With classical skills in his craft, coupled with what can only be explained as brilliance as a performer, Kip Winger made more than just his presence known. He made us know that he is relevant and he is an artist.
Photo courtesy of Dubuque365.com