at O2 Academy, Newcastle, UK, June 18, 2014

WINGER (Live at O2 Academy, Newcastle, UK, June 18, 2014)
Photo: Mick Burgess

Winger have in the past been unfairly pilloried as nothing more than Hair Metal poster boys. Much of the blame rests on the shoulders of those irksome and decidedly unfunny cartoon duo Beavis and Butthead who’s sneering jibes tarnished their name in the eyes of many. By the time they released their criminally underrated third album Pull in 1993, Grunge had all but swept the last vestiges of ’80s Rock clean away.

Yet Winger, put together by former Alice Cooper alumni Kip Winger and Paul Taylor, along with guitarist Reb Beach and Dixie Dregs drummer, Rod Morgenstein, were always much more than your average Hair Metal deadbeats. With well-crafted, classy Rock songs and a high level of musicianship, they had next to nothing in common with the throwaway bubble gum Glam Rock of the likes of Ratt and Warrant. Kip Winger, himself an accomplished classical composer, and Morgenstein a highly regarded Jazz drummer, while Beech was later handpicked by David Coverdale as guitarist in Whitesnake, were miles apart from their peers.

After initially splitting in the early 1990’s Winger reconvened in 2001 and have since put out three highly acclaimed albums with this year’s Better Days Comin’ garnering rave reviews worldwide.

On stage Winger the band and the man were clearly very happy to be back in the UK and with the line-up completed by John Roth replacing Paul Taylor they launched headlong into a suitably pacey Midnight Driver of a Love Machine, the perfect set opener.

Covering material from right across their career from the hits Miles Away and Seventeen to the altogether more menacing epic of Blind Revolution Mad which strangely enough, was not originally slated for inclusion and was only added after someone in the crowd shouted for it. Now that’s what you call an interactive set list.

For those who think of Winger as a little soft around the edges the riff heavy Pull Me Under, the frantic Rat Race and Deal With The Devil more than dispel those accusations. It’s refreshing to see a band in this day and age continue to grow and develop as artists as their latest album sees them heading in a more complex, Progressive direction. Winger are one of the few bands around from the ’80’s who are actually releasing better material than in their commercial heyday.

Kip Winger’s genial banter with his band mates and with the audience made for a relaxed and enjoyable evening and when Barry from Newcastle joined the band onstage to take over bass duties for a riotous run through Van Halen’s classic Ain’t Talkin’ ’bout Love, it brought a whole new meaning to the concept of crowd participation.

Winger have certainly ridden the rough times and come through it all the better for it and those prepared to look beyond an image set over a quarter of a century ago will find a band of immense quality and well worth a second chance.


  • Mick Burgess

    Mick is a reviewer and photographer here at Metal Express Radio, based in the North-East of England. He first fell in love with music after hearing Jeff Wayne's spectacular The War of the Worlds in the cold winter of 1978. Then in the summer of '79 he discovered a copy of Kiss Alive II amongst his sister’s record collection, which literally blew him away! He then quickly found Van Halen I and Rainbow's Down To Earth, and he was well on the way to being rescued from Top 40 radio hell!   Over the ensuing years, he's enjoyed the Classic Rock music of Rush, Blue Oyster Cult, and Deep Purple; the AOR of Journey and Foreigner; the Pomp of Styx and Kansas; the Progressive Metal of Dream Theater, Queensrÿche, and Symphony X; the Goth Metal of Nightwish, Within Temptation, and Epica, and a whole host of other great bands that are too numerous to mention. When he's not listening to music, he watches Sunderland lose more football (soccer) matches than they win, and occasionally, if he has to, he goes to work as a property lawyer.

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