WINGER GIVES POLAND A NIGHT TO REMEMBER
The ending of the year was pretty lucky for Polish hard rock enthusiasts living in Warsaw. Not only did we get Richie Kotzen‘s terrific two hour, six encore marathon gig (which still left fans begging for more), we also got the chance to see a live performance from the legendary Winger within the time span of two weeks.What was supposed to be a solitary concert with maybe one warm-up act transformed into a mini rock festival. Winger came to Warsaw with Italian hard rockers Markonee in support on all of their European gigs. These two bands, who were initially to perform all by themselves, were joined by four Polish acts; two newer bands and two Polish alternative heavyweights.
I wasn’t convinced a lot of people would visit Club Progresja for Winger‘s gig, but after a meet and greet at one of the local record stores, my hopes got higher. The store was crawling with hard rock fans, which was a very pleasant surprise as we are not a commonly met species here in Warsaw.
The gig itself started very early, around 6 pm. First out were the new beginners and they put on quite a performance, knowing that they are young bands. The problem was that not a lot of people were there to watch them play, and they did to an almost empty audience. After them came two Polish alternative rock bands, which were a pretty odd choice for supporting a band like Winger. They put up a decent show, and gathered quite a crowd of supporters, but the best was yet to come.
And its name was Markonee. In came… no, in ran a band who looked like they were literally hungry for success. This five piece from Italy shook the place upside down. Their show started with a vicious drum solo, which could have fit in easily at a thrash metal gig. Then the songs started and you could feel the sleaze in the air. If there is a band I saw live this year which could define the term sleaze rock, this was it. Markonee went through their set, no covers at all, but the people in the audience caught up with them instantly. Vocalist Gabriel knew how to control the crowd, and the guitar duo of Stefano and Carlo stretched their fretwork to the limits. All in all the band may not be the tightest group one could see play live, but their energy and enthusiasm won the crowd over. It was one of those experiences where you start to expect the supporting band would blow the headliner away.
But Kip Winger and the boys stood up to the challenge. In order to make an impression on a crowd bedazzled by their supporting band’s fiery opening performance they needed to put up quite a show. And one thing you can expect from seasoned musicians like Winger is that they can take it and deliver a memorable show.
The band showed up a bit late but tore through their greatest songs viciously well, and vicious is the proper word. This was clearly not the same band that were MTV pop-rock darlings back in the early 90’s. This was a band of professional musicians, all knowing their roles in the live show. Kip was the commander in chief, but he didn’t dominate the show. He was clearly the man behind the wheel, commanding the crowd and handling lead vocals, but he also let his side men show their talents.
Reb Beach in particular shined by doing blistering solos all around the set, but the other two band members also had their time in the limelight. Rod Morgenstein did a very cool drum solo, giving his buddies time to take a quick rest between an already clearly intense set. John Roth was the most reserved of all, doing his job as a rhythm guitarist with ease, but he also had time to deliver a solo for the crowd.
The set was very well balanced. It consisted of Winger‘s old time favorites as well as new songs from their recent release Karma. The only thing missing was the fact that they didn’t play a lot of songs from their IV album which I believe was a masterpiece. Whenever a song needed a piano section, Kip hit the keys, allowing a bassist from Markonee to fill in his boots. All the songs went smoothly and quickly, and the crowd grasped the fact that they were in the presence of hard rock heavyweights. At the end of the set the band played an encore with some members of Markonee, as Kip shared the vocals with a clearly star struck Gabriel.
Overall the gig was blistering. The headliners did their job well (and in the case of Markonee, even better then well), and Winger didn’t fail to deliver one of the most professional and energetic rock shows I was witness to this year. A night to remember.