Winger are touring the UK on the back of their new album Seven, their first since Better Days Comin’ was released in 2014. Its a 35-year career so far, and tonight, they joined Steel Panther at London’s Kentish Town Forum, who have embarked on their On The Prowl World Tour 2023. The Panthers also have a Who’s Your Daddy(‘s Jokes) series on YouTube.
Winger – Steel Panther
Kentish Town Forum – 20 May 2023
Words: Kahmel Farahani
Photography: Robert Sutton
Although front-man and multi-instrumentalist Kip Winger has made it a tradition to play intimate, unplugged shows in the UK, it has been far too long since his eponymous band visited these shores.
Although this tour may bill Winger as the support band, tonight, the packed-out Kentish Town Forum makes it feel like a co-headliner. Opening with Can’t Get Enuff, the band look and sound absolutely fantastic. With their soaring melodic sensibility and razor-sharp riffs, songs like Seventeen and Down Incognito have never sounded better or bigger.
Even more remarkably for an ’80s hard rock band, Winger still boasts all of its original band members! Guitarist Reb Beach is still one of the fastest guns around, and watching him take extended solos on Miles Away and Rainbow In A Rose is jaw-dropping.
The band even manage to mix some rather fine new songs into the mix, such as the gritty Proud Desperado.
As Winger kicks into their monster ballad Headed For A Heartbreak, a fan is invited to share the lead vocal duties. It just so happens that fan is Steel Panther’s own Michael Starr, who can’t hide his grin or the thrill of sharing the stage with MTV-certified hard rock royalty.
Winger wraps up an all too brief set with a solid back-to-back punch of Easy Come Easy Go and Madalaine.
A superb and all too brief show from a band that needs to become a regular visitor to the UK. Unfortunately, the same can’t be said for our headliner.
It’s said that given enough time, almost any parody will catch up with reality. If that is truly the case, then Steel Panther have passed by that point and come right back around. The band burst on stage with one of their strongest songs, the anthemic Eyes Of A Panther.
It’s followed by the first new song of the night, Let Me Cum In. Steel Panther take a collective bow and begin introducing themselves, and this is where things start to take a turn for the worse.
One of the issues of having a fixed act and telling the same jokes over and over again ad nauseam is that they tend to become very stale very quickly. Such an issue is what Steel Panther has, with almost every pair of songs being broken up by comedy bits that drag on forever.
Although it’s undeniable that Steel Panther does deliver exactly what they promise on the tin and, indeed, what the fans expect, the fact is that the band could have played around half a dozen songs in the time they spent talking to each other.
Things pick up with The Burden Of Being Wonderful but slow down again with the middle-of-the-road new song Friends With Benefits which is followed by Satchel’s guitar solos.
Proceedings more or less grind to a halt with the extended audience participation bit of pulling a pretty young lady from the crowd and sitting her on stage. Each band member then serenades her for what feels like an eternity before they finally play Girl From Oklahoma.
Things do pick up again for the final two songs and the massive stage invasion that goes along with Community Property and Party All Day (Fuck All Night). The band return for an encore of Gloryhole, which leaves the fans on a high note.
Although Steel Panther still delivers a good show and has enough genuinely solid songs to carry them through, after more than a decade and six albums, it’s frustrating that the band still spend so much of their show on “comedy” instead of music.
While still a good show and a fun night, it was arguably more balls to the wall than great balls of fire.