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WINGER, Manchester Academy
24 March 2010
Additional photography by Noel Buckley
juxtaposition of Airrace and Winger brought the history of late eighties
rock into perspective tonight. Airrace have seemingly clung on to
one 'classic' album -Shaft Of Light - since 1984 and are firing up again
after an appearance at Firefest in 2009. All credit for that, but the truth is there were many US
bands who did their brand of melodic hard rock better but who still had
their lack of wider success.
were certainly not in that category. Spearheaded by Kip Winger's
engaging frontman persona and consummate musicianship and the guitar
pyrotechnics of Reb Beach, the band had a string of
late-eighties/early-nineties single successes and were amongst the best
of their generation. That was before Grunge came along and crunched such
melodic and immaculately coiffured heavy metallers into oblivion…
Winger has subsequently pursued a lower-key solo career and Beach has
moonlighted in Dokken and latterly Whitesnake they both seem very happy
in their original configuration.
Winger demonstrated tonight that they are still relevant. Contrasting
markedly with my Europe experience in February, there was a vitality and
energy, a real sense of purpose and - moreover - great band interplay.
They managed to play a good selection off the excellent current album
‘Karma' as well as a glorious plundering of back catalogue - offering us
up such gems as the hard rock classics ‘Seventeen', ‘Miles Away' and
‘Can't Get Enough' from the first two platinum-plus selling albums.
If you rifle
through that back catalogue you'll realise it is quite frightening what
good stuff they inevitably had to omit in an all too short one hour set,
not least the likes of 'In the Day We'll Never See' and 'Under One
Condition' from their defining second album and from their later albums
such as 'Winger IV' although 'Your Great Escape' was gratefully received
by the faithful.
But the modern gems ‘Deal With The Devil' and ‘Feeding Frenzy'
sat very well with the classic stuff making for a set of perfectly
Beach had a
chance to really shine on the prog-tinged and truly magnificent ‘Rainbow
In The Rose' and the equally superb power ballad ‘Headed For A
Heartbreak' but eschewed a more song-based approach for his solo spot by
unleashing a guitar hero's display of unaccompanied and unbridled fret
should be made too of second guitarist John Roth who occasionally
stepped into the spotlight himself and who has recently surfaced on
the comeback album from Winger contemporaries, Giant.
Playing in the smallest of the Manchester 'Academies' may seem a bit
demeaning for a band of such quality and pedigree but I have to say this
was probably one of tonight's plus points.
biggest sales were in their homeland and, as I recall, they never really
toured the UK at the height of their success. And so tonight there was
an element of catching up and paying dues from a knowing and
enthusiastic audience, an excellent sound mix, and a more intimate
setting: almost a club gig for one of hard rock's mightiest.
Arguably, the set tonight sounded as good as it ever did. If you want
heavy riff-based melodic rock there are few bands who do it better.
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