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Friday, Jan. 31, 2014

Winger @ Potawatomi Bingo Casino

Jan. 30, 2014

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When he played an acoustic show at a Madison club in 2001, Kip Winger took requests from the rambunctious crowd, with one caveat: “I won’t play ‘Seventeen,’ because she’s now 30,” he said.

Thirteen years later, the fact that she’s now 43 didn’t stop Kip’s band, Winger—featuring all four original members who recorded the group’s self-titled 1988 debut album—from performing their most memorable single Thursday during the first of two nights at the Northern Lights Theater at Potawatomi Bingo Casino. At the chorus, Kip appropriately held up four fingers and then three fingers, mouthing the words “forty-three,” as if to acknowledge that even he knows how ridiculous (and creepy) it is for guys in their 50s and 60s to be singing the line, “Daddy says she’s too young / But she’s old enough for me.”

But Winger proved not to be just another cheesy, aging hair-metal band trying to make some quick dough on the nostalgia circuit. These guys, who haven’t been anywhere near a Billboard chart since 1993, took the stage in front of a near-sellout crowd as if they still have something to prove. With a decidedly heavier and thicker sound than back in its arena-rocking days, Winger is now a five-man live band, which makes those big choruses sound even bigger. The inclusion of longtime guitarist John Roth allows for a three-guitar arsenal, resulting in expanded arrangements that include extended jam sessions with as many as three solos in the same song. Musically, Winger was always superior to most of its spandex-wearing big-haired peers, and that hasn’t changed.

The band also appeared to be enjoying every minute onstage. Animated guitarist Reb Beach made goofy faces all night, Roth struck every rock-god pose known to man, and keyboardist/guitarist Paul Taylor and drummer Rod Morgenstein couldn’t stop smiling. Disappointingly, Kip—who beat the hell out of his bass and whose voice faltered only on a few notes here and there—seemed less enthusiastic. (Maybe age is finally catching up with the ballet dancer who high-kicked his way across the stage in the “Seventeen” video; he’ll be 53 in June.)

That said, Kip still looked distinguished with his 5 o’clock shadow and a pronounced gray streak in his thick black hair. He announced that he’s mixing the band’s sixth album, Better Days Comin’, expected to be released this spring, although the band didn’t play any new songs, focusing the 90-minute, 15-song set instead on the debut album and its 1990 follow-up, In the Heart of the Young. Deeper cuts such as “Poison Angel,” “You Are the Saint, I Am the Sinner,” and “Rainbow in the Rose” joined hits like “Down Incognito,” “Miles Away,” “Can’t Get Enuff,” “Hungry,” Madalaine” for an encore and, of course, “Seventeen.”
 
Winger will perform its entire self-titled debut album, in order, at Friday’s sold-out concert.