December 18, 2017 Winger Heat Up The Space at Westbury, NY 12-10-17
On Sunday night, December 10, 2017, children of the 1980s Hair Metal scene crammed into Long Island’s The Space at Westbury in New York to relive their youth and witness arguably the most underrated act of their generation – Winger. Before diving into the show, let us flashback to 1987 when Kip Winger (lead vocals/bass), fresh out of Alice Coopers’s band, arrived in New York joining Reb Beach (Guitar), Paul Taylor (guitar/keyboard), and Rod Morgenstein (drums) to write music and commence the beginning of a band who would soon take the decade by storm.
A sure-fire success, Winger struck gold with their 1988 debut, Winger, thanks to monster ballad “Headed for a Heartbreak” and their biggest hit “Seventeen.” Going platinum, Winger’s sophomore album, 1990’s In the Heart of the Young, produced three chart-topping singles and peaked at No. 15 on the Billboard 200. Big-time Rock stars, Winger’s music videos were a staple on MTV as they toured the world with bands like KISS and The Scorpions.
Unfortunately, in 1994, Winger split-up, but reunited in 2001 leaving fans on cloud nine as they toured with Poison in the summer of 2002. Even better, Winger continues to create new music including their latest, 2014’s Better Days Comin’. Today, Winger consists of three out of the four founding members – Kip, Beach, and Morgenstein joined by Guitarist John Roth (Giant and Black Oak Arkansas). Fast forwarding to now, Winger did their share of touring in 2017, and as luck would have it, Long Island would be the final stop of the year before touring resumes in 2018.
With plenty of Rock-n-Roll ahead, Black Dawn took the stage as the first of three support bands to rile-up the crowd for the main event. A proud Long Island band, Black Dawn have been playing their brand of Hard Rock/Heavy Metal since 1996. Made up of Matt Kotten (vocals/guitar), Tom Kelly (guitar), Shawn Cox (bass), and Enzo DiPaolo (drums) – Black Dawn is a strong and heavy band playing music reminiscent to the likes of Black Label Society with a touch of Pantera. A strong start to the night, Black Dawn played an in-your-face set of headbanging tunes including “Reflect” off 2004’s Age of Reason. A mainstay on the New York concert circuit, catch Black Dawn on a stage near you.
A revival of Sunset Strip Glam Rock, New York City’s Like It was next on the bill. Highly animated, Like It offered an entertaining set of cliche Rock tunes comprised of raunchy lyrics delivered in crude perfection by Vocalist/Guitarist Jamie Ross. Leather clad, Guitarist John Ostronomy sizzled while Bassist Dave Messinger and Drummer Mike Lincoln provided a fine backbone to a nostalgic set enjoyed by all. Worth getting to a show early, catch Like It if you can.
One more support act to go, hailing from New York City, Streetlight Circus immediately grabbed the attention of all in attendance with what Frontman David Shaw called “The original sound of Rock ‘n’ Roll.” A throwback to the past, Streetlight Circus deliver a contemporary dose of straight-up Rock music blended with all the sleaziness of Rock’s past. A bad-ass foursome, Shaw (vocals/bass) was joined by fellow bandmates Guitarists George Giannoulis and Fabio Bargna, as well as Drummer Erik Fehrenbach.
With tons of moxie, Streetlight Circus tore through edgy numbers including the title track to 2016’s Needle Down, “Ghettoblaster,” and lastly closing with a cover of Tom Petty and The Heartbreakers’ “I Need To Know.” Gaining notoriety wherever they play, Streetlight Circus have Rocked audiences all over the United States including huge festivals like Rocklahoma and the M3 Rock Festival.
At this point of the show, the crowd had grown to a massive size and was super enthusiastic as the moment Winger would take the stage drew near. Then, before anyone knew it, Morgenstein, Beach, and Kip arrived to a roar of cheers. Joined by touring Guitarist Donnie Wayne Smith, with the immediate ovation, it was as if the room had been transported back to 1988 while the band kicked into “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine.” Next, Kip expressed, “We want you to sing with us” as the band started to play “Easy Come Easy Go” and kept the energy levels up with “Loosen Up,” “Hungry,” “Pull Me Under,” and “Time To Surrender.”
Among the high spots of the set, Beach took center stage to show off his superb skills in an extraordinary guitar solo. One of the most impressive guitarists to come out of 1980s, Beach ripped through a plethora of arresting riffs which left the crowd in awe. An impressive musician, Beach has also lent his incredible guitar work to renowned bands like Dokken and has been a key member of Whitesnake since 2002.
After Reb’s spotlight, the remaining members returned for the blistering speedster “Rat Race” before another solo, this time it would be Morgenstein’s turn. Here, the exciting drummer made his mark – thrilling the crowd – as he pounded the skins in classic fashion, fitting for any Rock show, and as usual, the smile never left his face. Later, Smith had some solo time of his own and showed off his Bluesy guitar work to an impressed crowd.
Handing the bass guitar to Smith, Kip took his place behind the keyboard for two unmistakable ballads. First, the undoubtedly well-written”Miles Away” made for a resounding sing-along before the aforementioned “Headed for a Heartbreak” put the icing on the cake as these two key performances fed the appetite of a power ballad hungry audience.
Moving along, the hits kept on coming as Winger cut into slow heavy jams “Can’t Get Enuff” and “Down Incognito” before bringing the set back around to the first album with “Madalaine.” Reaching the home stretch, it was time for a fun performance of “Seventeen” which included an amusing lyric change to “She’s Only Forty-Seven” – as the song is a bit older now – which Kip joked about earlier in the night.
In the final moments, Winger briefly left the stage before returning for the encore. With not a soul ready to leave, Kip asked if anyone in the crowd could play bass, to which one gentleman raised his hand and Kip asked, “Do you suck?” The fan confidently said, “No.” A really cool offering, the crowd roared as Winger brought this fan – Jeff Parrett – onstage and handed him Kip’s bass to join them in playing the encore. Ready for one more and awarding one last fix of Rock spirit to the crowd, Kip declared the show incomplete without some Van Halen, to which the band kicked into a cover of “Ain’t Talkin Bout Love,” closing out the performance in grand fashion.
It is safe to say Winger is a solid band of well-bred musicians who have not slowed down their ingenuity to write great music and perform at a high level. As mentioned earlier, Rod Morgenstein and Reb Beach are on top of their game and Kip Winger can sing as well as ever. In a way, Winger is not at all underrated as over the years millions of fans have looked past the whole Hair Band thing to see that, at heart, Winger is all about writing great songs which stand out and make people happy. Having said that, droves of Winger fans left The Space at Westbury lively and recharged after a performance by one of the best live bands the 1980s had to offer. A show not to be missed, Winger returns to stages around the US in January.
Photos by: Diane Woodcheke Photography