Live Photos and Gig Review Credit: Anna Zurek
What better way to celebrate your birthday than hitting the O2 Academy Islington in London and spending it with your fans. Either that were Kip Winger’s thoughts or just pure coincidence when Winger headlined the venue on Saturday. But instead of getting a birthday cake, Winger treated their fans to one loaded with catchy tunes, power ballads and a big surprise at the end of the show. Wondering what it was? Well, you better keep reading, mate.
The first band to hit the stage that night was Blackwolf, a band from Bristol, whose sound reminded me of an interesting combination.
Take a few second and imagine Myles Kennedy suddenly decided to go into grungy vocals à la Layne Staley and teamed up with Slash and the Conspirators. Got it? And now add a tiny bit of Led Zep to that. The end result would come quite close to what Blackwolf sound like.
In more detail that means heavy guitar riffs with a little bit of blues and wonderful guitar solos that meet melancholic, powerful vocals alongside a raw, punk-like drum beat.
Not only their songs, but also their performance stood out. It was very energetic with both Jason Cronin (G) and Ben Webb (B) headbanging while lead guitarist John Greenhill went nuts on his guitar. Frontman Scott Sharp on the other hand offered a great contrast, capturing the grunge spirit with a calm manner that would explode into action from time to time. You can only imagine how good this band must have been if Scott Sharp actually managed to make the crowd sing along to one of their songs called “Relief”. By that time more than half the venue was filled with enthusiastic people willing to sing along to a great band that had just released their debut album “The Hunt” and will headline a tour in September. Make sure not to miss out on this!
Right after a great performance from Blackwolf, London-based Jettblack took over the stage and set the right mood with “Get Your Hands Dirty” which, like most of their songs, is guaranteed to get stuck in your head and have you singing along by the time you have heard the first chorus. Once they got to another of their catchy songs “Inbetween Lovers”, they had already won over the crowd having them sing along, dance and headbang and going nuts by the time they finished their set with crowd-favourite “Raining Rock”. Their set included a lot of catchy songs with a few beautiful ballads in between and also a new song that revealed an even heavier and ‘dirtier’ sound. Jettblack’s music is based on 80s hard rock with heavy but melodic guitar riffs and solos, powerful, in-your-face vocals and a great rhythm that will have you moving along in no time. Their shows never disappoint, so if you ever get a chance to see them, take it.
After two brilliant supporting bands the moment came the crowd had been waiting for, Winger entered the stage and started off with “Midnight Driver”. One thing that made this show special was that it was actually Kip Winger’s birthday. Once mentioned, lead guitarist Reb Beach encouraged and got the crowd to sing a birthday song which instantly put a smile on Kip Winger’s face. He placed his hand on his heart and thanked everyone.
During the night and in between songs, Kip kept the crowd entertained with jokes and great stories about how they wrote the songs they started playing soon after and who else was involved in the process.
There were two major breaks during the set dedicated to both drums and guitar. The first one was Rod Morgenstein’s energetic drum solo. You could literally see his excitement and that he was in the moment, feeling the beat almost ecstatically.
After that Winger played the first power ballad of the night “Miles Away” with Kip switching from bass guitar to keyboard. It seemed like a crowd favourite having them sing along loudly and swaying along to the beautiful melody. Once the song came to an end, Kip gladly pointed out how he could see all age groups in the crowd, especially young people, and took the time to thank everyone involved – the crew, sound engineer, fans and his sister who was present in the crowd.
By the time they started playing “Can’t Get Enuff” their performance had hit an energetic peak and the crowd had already gone wild, singing and dancing along. It was a great atmosphere that set the perfect ground for the next break that had Reb Beach play a very fast and melodic guitar solo as if in a trance, feeling every note he played. Even the solo itself created a trance-like atmosphere.
Near the end of the set, Kip Winger surprised everyone by asking if there were any musicians in the crowd and then took one lucky bass guitarist on stage to play the last song of the set “Seventeen”. All the while Kip jumped off stage from time to time to get near their fans, hugged them and let them sing along to the song
All in all, every single band contributed to an unforgettable night full of amazing music, fun stories and a great atmosphere that clearly appealed to the crowd. Winger will still be on tour until September, so go check them out if you can.
Setlist: Midnight Driver, EZ Come, Intro – Hungry, Pull Me Under, Down Incognito, Deal with the Devil, Stone Cold Killer, Rat Race, (Rod Drum Solo), Miles Away, Headed, Can’t Get Enough, Madalaine, Saints Solos, (Reb Solo), Seventeen