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The Borderline, London 14 September 2012

Kip Winger, photo by Andy Nathan

To play a full set successfully reimagining songs mainly recorded for and by a full band, with just your acoustic guitar for company, and hold the audience's attention, is surely a benchmark of an artist's credibility. With this show, Kip Winger would have provided the perfect riposte to those who, both in real and cartoon form, ridiculed him in the early nineties.

To those of us in the know, when they were not chasing MTV airplay, Winger were among the more musically adventurous of their contemporaries and Kip a brooding, complex presence who even, as he revealed here, composes ballet scores.

In recent years when I have seen him with his band, he has come over as intense, almost angry at times, so it was a pleasant surprise to see him in such a relaxed mood and showing such a dry sense of humour.

The Borderline was respectably full and it appeared a considerable number of Winger fanatics had travelled including from overseas, which made for a great atmosphere.

Kip Winger, photo by Andy Nathan

Kip's set was roughly two thirds Winger material and a third of his more personal solo material. Of the former, the likes of opener 'Easy Come Easy Go' had the crowd singing raucously over the minimal musical backing, but it was probably the songs from their darker third album 'Pull', a classic that slipped under the radar as grunge swept away hair metal both good and bad, that were more suited to this format, 'Who's the One' and 'Blind Revolution Mad' in particular.

The set list appeared not to be rigid as more than once he responded to requests, while he offered any fan the chance to come on and duet with him on 'Miles Away'. A pony-tailed New Yorker called JP, who could easily have been an extra from the Sopranos, volunteered himself and was surprisingly good.

Kip Winger, photo by Andy Nathan

All the tried and tested favourites from the first two Winger albums got an airing, including 'Hungry', 'Can't Get Enuff', 'Madelaine' and 'Seventeen', which Kip probably regrets and wryly joked that its subject would now be 39.

However it was the lesser known cuts that really hit the mark for me, in particular 'Under One Condition', the other ballad from 'In the Heart of the Young' and just as good as 'Miles Away' yet rarely if ever played live, and a storming 'Deal With The Devil' from the last Winger album, Karma. Others were shouting for the anti-war themed 'Blue Suede Shoes' from the neglected Winger IV, which ended the set.

Kip Winger, photo by Andy Nathan

Having only been slated to play an hour and a quarter, he seemed to be enjoying himself so spontaneously that by the end the set it had stretched to an hour and 40.

More good news was his announcing that a new Winger album is in the can, but in the meantime, this was both a joyous evening and a showcase of one of rock's more singular talents.

Review and photos by Andy Nathan

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