Kip Winger / Fiona The Borderline London 27-09-14
The 1980’s showered us rock fans with an embarrassment of riches when it came to female artists and female-fronted bands; but tonight – after almost 30 years of waiting – I was about to experience, for the very first time, my very own favourite rock goddess performing live before my very eyes!
My virtual love affair with New Jersey’s Fiona Flanagan began in April 1985 – the centrefold article of Kerrang #92, to be precise and Fiona’s subsequent, self-titled, debut album. Her career endured into the early 1990’s with some excellent follow-up releases: “Beyond the Pale” (1986), “Heart Like a Gun” (1989), “Squeeze” (1992), her five songs from the soundtrack to the 1987 movie “Hearts of Fire”, and, more recently, 2011’s magnificent comeback album “Unbroken”.
So, there I was, tucked in right at the front of the Borderline stage, between Winger fans Georgia and Samir and Paul Dix from the “Fiona Flanagan Appreciation Society” Facebook page. My mates Mark and Neil stood right behind me and I just knew that this balmy Saturday evening in the venue’s cosy surroundings was going to promise something very special.
Fiona came onto the Borderline’s small stage at about 7.40 pm: slight and petite, her trademark brown hair framing dark glasses, and wearing a short, lace-patterned black dress and black ankle boots. Accompanied by the talented duo of Harry Reilly on acoustic guitar and Jorge Salan on electric guitar, she performed a semi-unplugged, 50-minute set of songs from every album in her catalogue. This is what she played:
You better wait
Talk to me
Hang your heart on me
Loved along the way
Ain’t that just like love
At first Fiona seemed a little nervous, but she noticeably relaxed and grew into her performance as her set progressed. The glasses and boots were shed (and the microphone stand consequently lowered!) halfway through, and she really began to have fun, moving barefoot around the stage. Okay, there was the odd wavering high note, but that voice was otherwise right there!
Fiona did not disappoint me at all. I found her to be a very warm, endearing, almost self-deprecating, performer; chatting and joking with the audience between songs – at one point laughing that the sizeable crowd indicated that all of her relatives had come out tonight to see her! She also told us some very funny tales about how some of the songs had come to be written and she seemed to be genuinely pleased by the positive audience reaction to each and every number.
The backing combination of Reilly and Salan also worked very well in this small venue: the acoustic guitar kept the songs moving in the absence of a full band, whilst Jorge Salan nicely filled the gaps with his electric licks and solos, and also some backing vocals. We were thoroughly entertained throughout.
Fiona’s main set came to an end all-too-soon, but she returned in an instant to run through two encore songs: “Hearts of fire” and the rocking “Running out of night”. I was very pleased that she chose to end her set with the latter: “Running out of night” being a particular favourite of mine from the “Beyond the Pale” album – and one that I would never in a million years have thought that she’d have played tonight!
Fiona took her final bow and then departed, leaving me to reflect how much I had enjoyed watching her sing – but also perhaps feeling a little sad that this would quite possibly be the only ever time that I would see her.
It was then that events took an unexpected and rather surreal turn…
After a five-minute interval, Kip Winger walked onstage to a deserving hero’s welcome before asking us to show our appreciation for Fiona. The audience roared its approval and Kip then went on to say that she was at that moment signing autographs at the back of the hall!
I turned around to look at Mark and Neil, their expressions betraying the fact that my face at that moment must have been an absolute picture! But something inside me told me that this was it… a once-in-a-lifetime moment... a moment that I just had to seize… and so I turned away from the stage – from Kip Winger, a world-famous rock star – sacrificing my place at the front… to go to find Fiona!
“So long, dude,” I heard Kip say over the entire venue’s laughter as the crowd parted like the proverbial Red Sea, to let me out. I really didn’t mean to disrespect or offend him by walking away before he had even played a note, but I just felt that this was something that I really had to do (sorry Kip… but I will come back to see you next time!).
Emerging from the crowd I found Fiona talking to a couple of guys. When she turned to me I shook her hand and thanked her for making me very happy by making some great records over the years. She asked me my name and then willingly autographed the six CD insert booklets that I put in front of her. My lasting memory will be how very nice and kind to me she was during our short encounter. Thank you Fiona for really making my day!
“How did I do?” she asked me at one point.
“You were just great,” I replied… before gushing (rather lamely, I suppose, in hindsight), “But you could have got up there and sung the phonebook and I’d have enjoyed it…” (Yes… I know… “fan meltdown” mode, or what? Cringe city!).
Fiona touched me lightly on the arm and said: “That’s really nice of you to say that,” before she turned to add another signature to one of my CD inserts…
We spent a few more minutes together, talking (about what, I really can’t remember now), while she signed and signed again. The moment was broken when a guy asked me to take a photo of him with Fiona, which I duly obliged.
Fiona then politely excused herself, saying that she needed to go to watch Kip play. She added, however, that she would be doing another number with him during his set and also that she would be about after the show. I shook her hand again, thanked her again for spending some time with me and said that I hoped that she would enjoy her time in England. And so we parted… and I found myself meandering my way back towards the bar area, to find a vantage point to watch the rest of the show.
I have to say that it probably took me a good 15 to 20 minutes to fully re-engage with proceedings. During that time I was vaguely conscious that someone was singing and playing a guitar somewhere in the background… But I wasn’t really there… actually, I was flying… because I had just seen – and then met – Fiona…
The first half of the review is by my good friend and Fiona fan Steve Lewis and then normal service is resumed!! Great job mate.
That was the prelude to one of the most awe inspiring memorable evenings I have been too.
I had been told that last years show ( with this being the third annual ) was a blast. So much so that this gig was being recorded and if they can get half the atmosphere across on film then everyone should get a copy to help with the world's problems.
We were all their to watch a man with an incredible talent who with his trusty 12 string acoustic in tow and one voice (along with 300 or so on backing vocals ) for just over 2 hours had us all spellbound.
Here is what he played.
Easy Come Easy Go
Can't Get Enuff
Who's The One
Headed For A Heartbreak
Blind Revolution Mad
Rainbow In The Rose
Miles Away ( duet with Stan and Georgia )
Under One Condition
Midnight Driver Of A Love Machine
Deal with The Devil
Spell I'm Under
How Far Will We Go
Everything You Do ( You're Sexing Me ) With Fiona / Harry Riley and Jorge Salan
It was part Winger jukebox and part chat show with Kip as host. He was funny and friendly and someone you felt you had known for years and would love a pint with.
We had stories and after last year phoning Reb Beach ( this year he was on a plane ) we all shouted out who would be on his phone list. Alice Cooper never answers so someone shouted out John Roth ( Winger guitarist ) and I shouted out " Phone Rod " ( Morgenstein winger drummer ). So he called Rod we waited and he answered and Kip said he was on stage in London and Rod was " organic food shopping " which Kip said was about as rock n'roll he was. We all roared with laughter before wishing him well with a shoulder op in December.
Later he phoned Kane Roberts who was a bit more rock n'roll with his welcome to us all.
At the front of the stage we had a guy who held up his " Kip is God " banner and he did know him from the facebook banter they went on about. Samir Winger he was and after singing along and screaming out " Time To Surrender " with Kip joining in about 3 times Kip asked would he like to sing at Kip's funeral.
" Yes " he replied and Kip replied " Samir sings Kip Winger in the style of Michael Jackson " which I think we had all thought. The whole place was in uproar. Quite hilarious.
For the duet on "Miles Away " Kip invited up Stan and Georgia who I have to say did a great job. Stan did but had to type into google for the lyrics which he then viewed on his phone. Again hilarious with the vocal backing vocals from the entire crowd raised the roof.
After last years show when he was asked to play " Battlestations " this year he did. He had written the lyrics down on paper which a young lady in the front row held up while Kip had to put his glasses on to see them. Great song.
We had mainly Winger songs from throughout their career along with some solo nuggets all played with a passion and with a vocal performance that was top drawer along with a superb acoustic sound too .
Difficult to pick highlights but " Rainbow In The Rose " and " Under One Condition " were simply stunning played with a level of emotion few can match.
With curfew fast approaching he blitzed though 3 classics with " Down Incognito " being the best of the bunch with the crowd roaring the chorus .
Inviting Fiona and her band back for a romp through " Everything You Do " was a great way to finish with another blistering guitar solo from Jorge Salan from Jeff Scott Soto's band.
With that he was gone well to the back of the venue to press some flesh and sign whatever was handed over. My ticket so it happens.
Promising to be back next year for a gig he says is his year highlight, I suggest you all come along for a life affirming gig that has me still smiling 2 days later.
And that isn't always the case is it.
Roll on the dvd.