Winger were always different to the other bands of the late eighties "hair metal" boom. Sure, they had the hair and the designer rags, but they also had immense amounts of musical talent. We saw the band on one of the first gigs of their European tour, and witnessed the Winger Experience first hand. The band did a great job showcasing the both sides of Winger - they have written some of the catchiest sing-along hits of their era, but they have also written some rather progressive tracks which most of the other "hair bands" wouldn't even try to play.
The support act Fatal Smile started their set around 8 PM, when the venue was still rather empty. Despite there being only a handful of people paying attention to the band, they soldiered bravely and put on a good show. Their brand of straight-forward hard rock (call it "action-rock" or whatever) sounded okay, with the single "Learn Love Hate" being the most memorable song of the set. Towards the end of the gig more people got into it, and as they played the last song "Hip M.F.", they even got some people to sing along... Give a slightly drunk Finnish guy half a reason to shout "motherfucker" and you can bet he'll shout it out loud!
There was a 60-minute break between the bands, and we wandered downstairs to the lobby to buy a Winger T-shirt or two. After all the undeserved ridicule the band was subjected to by a certain cartoon show, we would have been more than happy to stand up for this band and wear those shirts proudly... but that was not to be. There was no Winger merchandise available... I know that we weren't the only ones disappointed in this, and I'm sure they could have sold at least a hundred shirts. Fatal Smile probably did better business than expected, because people didn't have anything else to buy than their merchandise.
The anticipation of the crowd got higher, when the fans in the front row noticed that there was some movement behind the curtain. There were no pompous introductions as the curtains were opened, the band just kicked it into overdrive with a hard rocking version of "Blind Revolution Mad". The sound was good, the band was in good spirits and the audience was totally into it. I guess Kip Winger liked what he saw from the stage, as he took a couple of photos of the crowd... something to show to the folks back in the USA!
Winger 2006 is a five-man band, but apparently keyboard player Cenk Eroglu couldn't make it to the tour, so the band performed as a quartet: Kip Winger on bass and vocals, Reb Beach and John Roth both on guitars and backing vocals and Rod Morgenstein on drums. Kip doubled as the keyboard player when keys were necessary, apparently playing the bass parts on the keyboard as well.
The first few tracks were Winger classics: "Loosen Up", "Seventeen" and "Down Incognito", out of which the U.S. breakthrough hit "Seventeen" got the biggest response. "Right Up Ahead" was the first of the new songs, and it was quite well recieved too. Halfway through the song the band paused and Kip had to ask whether the crowd dug it or not... we did.
Just like all the tracks from the "In The Heart Of The Young" album, "Rainbow In The Rose" was a big crowd favourite. The new songs "Generica" and "Your Great Escape" were extended with some improvised jamming, which seemed to please the musicians in the audience. For the rest of us, the following selection of hits was more to our liking: "Headed For A Heartbreak", "Junkyard Dog", "You Are The Saint, I Am The Sinner", "Can`t Get Enuff" and "Easy Come, Easy Go"... Then it was all over, even though it wasn't, of course...
After the obligatory two minute break, Kip and Reb Beach returned to the stage, Kip bringing his 12-string guitar with him. The duo performed a cool version of "Who's The One", after which the drummer Rod Morgenstein and guitarist John Roth joined them for the last two songs. First of them was the highlight of the gig for me, the classic ballad "Miles Away". John Roth played bass on this track, as Kip was still playing his 12-string. Last but certainly not least the guys played "Madalaine", the equally classic opener of the first album. Then it was really over.
A great performance from a great band. I don't think that anyone left the Nosturi disappointed. Hopefully the success of this gig will encourage promoters to book more hard rock/AOR bands to Finland, as there certainly is demand for quality music here!
Review by Kimmo Toivonen,