The danger of seeing classic rock icons far past their heyday is that one tends to remember what they were then; instead of what they are now. Some disappoint because they don’t play their greatest hit or have just lost the zeal to perform and others, well, others like Edgar Winter; they come to play.
Winter’s recent performance at Manhattan’s Cutting Room was raucous, powerful, extremely entertaining and full of energy from start to finish; catching some in attendance seemingly by surprise. Whispers heard pre-show revolving around how much “Gas Edgar’s got left in his tank,” quickly turned to smiles, head bobs and claps as Winter’s tank was not only still full but absolutely overflowing.
The first chords of “Keep Playing That Rock ‘N’ Roll” split the Cutting Room like a hot knife through butter as Winter took the stage at 7:38 p.m. EST wearing leather pants, a black sleeveless tee and a dark purple blazer. Showing no signs of his 68 years, his voice sounded just as fresh today as it did more than 30 years ago and his active stage presence got the quick attention of a now very crowded venue.
Next up was “Free Ride” and as he announced its title, one got the sense he was performing it because he knew he almost had to. Given the songs immense popularity decades before, this one seemed more for the crowd than his own satisfaction and yet despite this initial vibe; the band was now firing on all cylinders and seemed to warm to the tune immediately.
“Hangin’ Around” was next and upon its completion, Edgar took a minute to say hello and evoke the memory of his late brother as he dedicated one of the hottest versions of “Tobacco Road” ever witnessed to Johnny Winter. “This is one my brother Johnny and I used to play all over Texas,” he said as the band kicked it into high gear for an appreciative crowd. This song would feature some mind blowing solos by each band member, beginning with a scat filled call and answer between Winter’s searing vocal and guitarist Doug Rappoport. No matter what Edgar threw at his axe man; he responded with sizzling precision. This lengthy exchange gave way to another; this time with bassist kOko Powell. Once again, Winter challenged his band mate to show what he was made of and Powell did not disappoint. Responding flawlessly to Edgar’s insane vocal riffs; kOko was more than up to the task. Drummer Jason Carpenter was next in line to try and match his boss and in one of the most unique moments of the evening; Carpenter’s stick work recreated Winter’s voicings without fail. This moment drew a semi-standing ovation from the now awed fan base. All of this was intertwined with a classic rock hit list which included excerpts from Led Zeppelin’s “Heartbreaker,” Stevie Wonder’s “Sir Duke,” segueing into Cream’s “Sunshine of Your Love” then the psychedelic beginnings of Iron Butterfly’s “In-A-Gadda-Da-Vida” and a return to Zeppelin with a healthy slice of their classic, “Kashmir” followed by a keyboard solo/interlude and the band rejoining for the tune’s end. A more than thrilled crowd was now at fever pitch as they stood, applauded and hollered for more.
“I Got My Eye On You” was followed by “Guitar Boogie Shuffle” which gave way after a brief introduction to “Texas Tornado,” featuring Winter on the saxophone for the first of several times on the evening.
“Ever have such a good time that you can only remember up to a certain point? I’ve had, umm, I’ve had a few of those over my career,” said Winter with a hearty laugh as the boys in the band nodded in agreement. “That’s exactly what this song is about,” with that they pounded their way into “We All Had a Real Good Time.” The beauty of this tune was the brief pause near the songs completion and as if in a musical Mea Culpa Rappoport played the opening riff of Zeppelin’s “Nobody’s fault But Mine;” further inciting the crowd to erupt. Rappoport was nowhere near finished however as he deviated into a guitar solo of several minutes in length, which saw usage of the entire fret board and neck of his instrument as he tore it up in a blistering display of aptitude; ending with a portion of The Who’s, “Won’t Get Fooled Again” and the guitar behind his head ala James Marshall Hendrix.”
“The Power of Positive Drinkin’” was a great tongue in cheek moment and a neat way to get the crowd primed for the song they came to hear perhaps more than any other; “Frankenstein.” “I was the first person in musical history to put a strap on a keyboard, so I wrote this song to feature the synthesizer,” he stated with reflective pride as he broke into one of the best known instrumental works in modern history.
What happened next was vintage Winter. Performing upon every instrument he could get his hands on from keyboards to synthesizer to saxophone and his timbales/percussion set up; Edgar owned the stage and the masses loved every intense minute. When time came for the famed drum solo, Jason Carpenter let it rip as he pounded the skins with lightning quickness yet dynamically controlling the volume drawing knowledgeable applause from those in attendance. The real fun began when Winter joined in and they matched either other riff for riff in a hard driving percussion trade off that evoked smiles from every corner of the room.
Now long jacketless and drenched with sweat, the still energetic rocker paused to reflect and catch a quick breath; “I wish to thank everyone who sent condolences and their sympathies for my brother Johnny. This is one that our good friend Rick Derringer wrote and wherever he is; Johnny may be playing it now.” A four count later and “Rock ‘n’ Roll Hoochie Koo” drove the stoked audience into overdrive. Dancing and singing (which grew more prevalent with each passing offering) were now the norm as the aisles of this cozy, snug venue filled with bodies; arms akimbo. When the last power chord faded at 9:07 p.m.; Edgar was quick to return within a minute to chants of “One more” and to rousing applause as he once again took the stage.
A six minute version of “Jumpin’ Jack Flash” was the encore and closed the night quite aptly for Edgar as his energy never wavered from start to finish. How much gas did Winter have left in his tank? Based on the reactions of those who attended; plenty!
To discover more about Edgar Winter, the tour and/or his music; please go to www.edgarwinter.com.