Released: 2007, Frontiers Records
Reviewer: Robert Fortress Fortney
The been-battered-until-bruised Winger crawled back into view in 2006 with IV, its first record of all new material since third effort PULL, released 13 years previous. An excellent and mature work, PULL was largely ignored as pop metal's popularity faded, and grunge, alternative, rap, and boy-band buffoonery began to build steam. It's interesting how revered it has become all these years later amongst those with keen ears for quality musicianship and hard-rock songcraft.
Featuring the original lineup of the insanely talented Kip Winger on vox and bass, guitarist extraordinaire Reb Beach, drumming legend Rod Morgenstein, keyboardist Cenk Eroglu (not featured on LIVE), and guitarist John Roth, who replaces long-departed second guitarist / keyboardist Paul Taylor, IV furthered PULL's pulling away from the bubblegum lyrics that featured on hits like "Seventeen" (WINGER, 1988) and "Can't Get Enuff" (IN THE HEART OF THE YOUNG, 1990). However, so strong were the hooks present in such gems, many missed the fact that the players were celebrated musicians with serious chops; technicality and progressive flourishes were seamlessly woven into four minute radio smashes.
Pop metal, or what many ridiculously refer to as "hair metal", is now dead (extreme metal is the new "pop" metal), at least in the form it once appeared, and Winger's audience has matured. Kip and the boys no longer need to pander to teenybopper trends. IV presents Winger in the new millennium as the band those in-the-know knew it could eventually be. Fuck Beavis and Butt-head and Metallica (if you don't get the references, you're too young).
As Kip once said in so many words, no cheap insults or thrown darts can change the fact that Winger can go head-to-head, in songwriting acumen and playing ability, with any group. Fact. Truth is, Lars and the boys would die a quick death in a grudge match with these monsters.
LIVE shows Winger to be a powerhouse on stage (can players of this caliber and experience be anything but?), armed with some of the greatest rockin' guitar music ever written. Yes, this DVD is that good.
Winger kicks the show off with 1993's "Blind Revolution Mad", and then plays two cuts from its second album, "Loosen Up" and "Easy Come Easy Go". Clearly there are fans in the audience who were there from the beginning, so these songs go down a storm. Yesterday's hot teenage girls are today's hot 30-something ladies...and they're there, front and centre of the stage, rocking it out. "Your Great Escape", a new one, follows, and it is clear Kip and Reb haven't lost their flair for putting an ultra-catchy tune together. In another time this would have been a major radio hit.
From here on it's great song after great song: "Down Incognito", "Rainbow In The Rose", "Generica" (new one), "Junk Yard Dog", "Right Up Ahead" (newie), "You Are The Saint, I Am The Sinner", "Headed For A Heartbreak", "Can't Get Enough", "Seventeen", "Who's The One", "Miles Away", "hungry", and "Madalaine". There are even solos from Reb and Rod to keep the geeks (me!) happy. And it is a testament to Mr. Beach's confidence in his own abilities that he gives Roth free reign to give some good plows (solos) of his own.
What else can be said? If you're just not a fan of melodic hard rock / pop metal with progressive tendencies (a weird brew, I know), you are just not a fan. Still, it's hard not to recommend this DVD to anyone with even a passing interest in incredible musicianship and fine, fine songwriting. Many rockers avoid Winger simply on name alone, fooled by miles of bad press from ignorant and "hip" (yeah, right) critics who threw sticks and stones because it seemed like the thing to do. But the sands of time cannot diminish accomplishment.
Kip, Reb and crew play because they're players. Modern composers and performers of a sturdy and weighty art. Forever laughing at those who would dare challenge their songwriting competence, sincerity and fierce chops. LIVE documents a very relevant band irreverently ignoring trends and carving a deep legend within the minds and hearts of those who recognize true quality.