Winger / Markonee
9 December 2009
It was close to 20 years ago when I saw a Winger gig first, they were opening up for Scorpions and clearly stole the show leaving a never-to-fade impression in my (back then) young and innocent heart. I've been lucky to see them quite a few times ever since, they never failed to impress, regardless if we talk about full band shows or just Kip doing one of his many acoustic gigs (most of those being goose-bumps filled memories). With all these in mind I was almost a 100 percent sure of a decent December night out. Well, I was more than wrong...
As it is the recent trend with US bands touring the old continent, they teamed up with a local band who were hoping to get some exposure under their wing(er). Uh, I know that was cheap. Anyway, Markonee just did what they were supposed to do in that spot, they brought their gear, their merchandise, their engineer (I only wish they lost that dude somewhere on the way) and their young(?) energy with and laid them all out. Both musically and as far as their looks went they were about 30 years late but they worked hard to win the audience. They got some of the rather drunk going and that's more than enough from a support act like that. Their set was well rehearsed, energetic and although I can't remember a single melody from any of their songs, their enthusiasm was enough to take them through their set without any boos and quite a few applauds after each song.
When roadies didn't remove their drum-kit after their set that little devil in my head started to talk dirty to me. Following a short, taped intro Winger hit the stage with "Pull Me Under" from their new album. They sounded so heavy, so harsh and Kip Winger was hoarsening so hard that I couldn't stop wondering if they were throwing darts at Metallica poster before the gig, instead of running a sound check. There was one chaotic mess coming off stage, Reb Beach was barely audible, Kip's mike was lost in the mix while John Roth's guitar and vocals were up there in the front, and more often than not only the snares were audible from the drums. The entire band was fighting monitor problems with Kip trying desperately sending messages (hand signals, audible requests, etc.) towards the engineer. All in vain, the sound didn't improve; yet the rough sound didn't do as much damage to the new songs as it did to the older ones, "Blind Revolution Mad" from Pull was still tolerable but as soon as they got to "Seventeen" the whole thing sounded like some really lame Winger parody. Imagine Kip in very bad shape, getting a bit overweight with age, fighting a sore throat (according to insider reports he was fighting that for a couple of days before the show) with the sound of the garage days of Metallica Kip cawing "I'm only seventeen". Huh, believe me, it was even worse right then, right there.
Quite frankly it was the new dude, John Roth who saved the day. First of all because it was only him who was audible at all but moreover because he sang damn good vocals and by solid riffing he gave the chance to Reb for an airy, solo-filled approach. Not that much of those solos were audible, it was more of my imagination putting the (sound)picture together. By the second half of the show Kip's voice improved considerably (lack of warming up? Or miraculous healing with half an hour of the show gone?) and he pulled an okay performance in the end. Separate solos by both guitarists (very good both, John's more traditional, bluesy while Reb's the good, tricky, innovative stuff pulled with incredible ease) and a much too long drum solo on pre-recorded sample-sounds helped Kip to rest his strained voice during the show.
"Miles Away" and "Headed for the Heartbreak" were obviously designed to provide some peaks for the setlist with Kip going for the keyboards and Markonee's bassist filling up the void but with the appearance of the keyboard and a different mike acting for the lead, the engineer was completely lost and the sound was worse than ever. The band saved the day by packing their major hits like "Hungry" and "Can't Get Enough" towards the end of the gig but managed to tear any positive feelings I desperately tried to develop by inviting the opening act on stage (told ya I was scared shitless when seeing the two drum kits on stage) for a jam version of "Helter Skelter". For fuck's sake is it gonna be "Born to be Wild" the next time around??
I was left speechless after the show just like many times after Winger shows before but this time for completely different reasons. Their professional musicianship helped them to get them from one end to the other end of the gig yet the whole thing stank from Miles Away. With this gear, with this road crew, and having seen the list of venues they are about to play, there's not much better to expect at the other stops of the tour. Though at the end of the gig Kip asked people to support live music and attend live shows, do yourselves a favour and skip this one to support the survival of the Winger legend.
Review by Endre "Bandi" Hübner, bandi "at" rockunited.com
03 January 2010