It was a sort of homecoming gig for Kip Winger and the boys when they played the Buffalo Rose in Golden, CO, and it showed on their faces with the mile-high smiles on everyone’s faces both on the stage and in the crowd. Kip recalled driving the streets of this quaint Colorado town when he first got his driver’s license in high school. For many in attendance at the show, they probably remembered watching Winger on MTV while they were in high school in the late 80s.
Fast forward to about 35 years later, and you’ve still got all four original band members on stage looking like they’re having a blast. Shout out to somewhat legendary drummer Rod Morgenstein, who Kip said was now 70 years old, and who still plays with fire, intensity, and a massive smile on his face. Actually, all of the members of Winger seem to be drinking from the fountain of youth, as guitarist Reb Beach seemed to delight in delivering jaw-dropping solos all night long, including an extended section featuring just him on stage and his pyrotechnic attack on his Suhr guitar. Paul Taylor split duties on keys and guitars, and looked both fit and content to be on stage with the others. Kip Winger’s voice sounds incredibly good still, hitting high notes with both power and precision, and his stage presence is markedly more mature than those early MTV videos.
Perhaps initially fueled by those hair-band era videos, Winger has been on the receiving end of an unfair amount of mockery and shaming, from Beavis and Butthead to Metallica. But Winger has outlasted the insults and there is no room for arguing that they have some of the best chops of any band from their era. Even less arguable is the fact that they released one of the strongest records of their entire career this year with Seven, and if you haven’t heard it, you really should. Indeed, Winger is standing tall and rocking hard still.
The setlist featured a broad range of music from their catalog, from the obligatory renditions of “Seventeen,” “Rainbow in the Rose,” “Headed for a Heartbreak” and “Easy Come, Easy Go” to more recent tracks like “Proud Desperado,” “Stick the Knife in and Twist.” They also included some highlights from the middle records, including “Junkyard Dog” from “Pull” and “Pull Me Under” from “Karma.” From a setlist perspective, it was pretty much all killer, no filler. While I missed the bluesy playing of longtime touring member John Roth on second guitar, the spot was admirably covered by Howie Simon, who also seemed to be having a fun night with this guitars-forward assault.
At a time when a lot of 80s rock bands are phoning it in, hiding behind tracks and looking like a geriatric version of their former selves, Winger is still putting on an energetic display of plug-in-and-play-live rock and roll that still feels fun to hear and watch more than 35 since its inception. They have paid their dues, earned new respect, and continue to prove the naysayers wrong. They’re still “Hungry,” and for a group of guys now in their 60s and 70, that’s pretty damn impressive, and worth the price of a ticket when they come through your town.