Thursday was a shit day. I’ll just put that out there now. At work it seemed like every single fuckhead in the U.S. of A. was on the other end of my phone for roughly eight hours straight, so if ANYONE needed a night out it was me. Ever since I got the promo copy of WINGER’S Better Days Comin’ I was waiting for a Dallas date and sure as I’m sitting here they came to Trees Dallas! I enlisted the help of Paul Wilkins Photography, whose shots you see before you, so I could focus on the business of rockin’ out, and waited for the 10:30 start time. Like I said, I was ready to hear some kickass tunes by a band full of amazing musicians at my favorite club on the planet. Bring on WINGER, dammit!!
Well they hit the ground runnin’ with new song “Midnight Driver of a Love Machine”, a hard-driving (pun intended) riff-laden affair to get things going. Then they went right into “Easy Come Easy Go”, the first of many sing-alongs the night would bring. I admit it, I hated In the Heart of the Young when it first came out in 1990 because I felt that the band’s sound was completely neutered, but I did always like this one. By the way, live it was much heavier and rougher, so all was forgiven. A little “Hungry” action from the self-titled debut was next followed by one of my favorites from 2009’s Karma record, “Pull Me Under”.
As soon as the intro to “Down Incognito” started some dude next to me and I just started going nuts and screaming/singing every word. It’s a vastly underrated song from a criminally underrated album, 1993’s Pull. It’s so funny how every time I go to Trees I always make random friends with people. Fuck, I love that place! We got served two shots o’ Karma with “Deal with the Devil” and “Stone Cold Killer”, two of the ballsiest tracks on that album AND the band’s discography. Kip Winger had a lot of fun with the fans introducing “Devil”. He was pretty much in rare form all night, a real self-effacing guy who knows how to work a room. In fact when Reb Beach played a teaser from “Seventeen” he quipped, “ Oh, you’re gonna have to stay till the bitter fuckin’ end for that one, man. She’s fuckin’ 43 now, man…and STILL HOT!”
Speaking of Beach, not only is he an amazing guitarist, but he also knows when to defer. Early on in the show guitarist John Roth was getting a lot of solos and a good share of the spotlight, and as the night progressed we saw a lot of them working together and also dueling on some songs. I had NO IDEA Roth was this fucking good, I really didn’t!! Plus, their vocal harmonies were the tightest I’ve seen since Y&T a few months back, which only enhanced everything. This was never more evident, singing and playing-wise, than on “Rat Race”, the entire band especially drummer Rod Morgenstein a well-oiled machine. In fact, his solo was right after this and he is every bit as insane on the drums as he was when I saw them back in ’89!
And now it was time for the ballad portion of the evening. “Miles Away” and “Headed for a Heartbreak’ were played back-to-back. Again, I fucking HATED “Miles Away” when it was an MTV hit, but it sounded really, really good, as did “Heartbreak”. Kip’s voice has remained strong for over 25 years and he nailed these songs and made it look easy before getting back to the rock with “Madalaine”, the very first WINGER song I heard/saw on Headbangers Ball at 2 a.m. back in ’88, and the song that prompted a lot of record store hopping to find the goddamn tape! Holy fuck, it sounded phenomenal! And then we got “Seventeen”. I swear it was like stepping into a time machine and being back at Nassau Coliseum in April of ’89, a night where WINGER was the middle band and blew the other two away.
You’d think after all this great stuff both old and new that they’d call it a night. You’d THINK that, but you’d be wrong. Local boy Andy Timmons (DANGER DANGER) was in attendance so the guys HAD to get him up there. Real quick, Andy plays on Kip’s solo stuff, so it’s a friendship going back years. Kickass versions of “Helter Skelter” and “Purple Haze” followed, much to everyone’s delight. But the real highlight came when the band got April Samuels, drummer, breast cancer survivor, and founder of the Breast Cancer Can Stick It Foundation (see more info HERE) up there to take over the kit for a smoking version of VAN HALEN’S “Ain’t Talkin ‘Bout Love” with John Roth taking lead vocals. Even more badass? She had to play Rod’s left-handed kit and killed it!! This was the PERFECT way to cap off my evening. I left Trees a thousand times happier than when I walked in, so thank you WINGER. Thank you very much. ~dc