Reducing an arena-sized show to nightclub dimensions is always a mixed proposition. On the one hand, you lose a lot of spectacle in the transition to a smaller stage, while on the other, you gain a degree of intimacy impossible in hockey rinks.
Such was the case when the triple bill of Winger, Extreme and Tangier played Hammerjacks over the weekend. Compared to most arena shows, Saturday's had little in the way of visual flash, with minimal lighting and only a touch of dry-ice fog onstage. But given the degree of personal contact, which ranged from Kip Winger high-fiving fans to Gary Cherone of Extreme actually climbing into the balcony, it's doubtful anyone minded.
Even Tangier, which opened the show, had its share of surprises, thanks to a guest appearance by Cinderella front man Tom Keifer.
Winger, the headliners, needed no such help -- they already had bona fide rock star in front man Kip Winger. With his muscular good looks and cool confidence, he had no trouble wowing the women in the crowd, and his predilection for power-ballads makes him a ready-made pop pin-up. Nor is it all a matter ofcheekbones and stubble, for Kip Winger has a good, strong voice that added much to slow songs like "Heading for a Heartache."
Where the band lost ground was with its harder-rocking material, which tended to be overplayed and under-effective. Obviously, the members of Winger had chops to spare, but more often than not that left its arrangements cluttered; although "Can't Get Enuff" seemed energized by the band's high-velocity attack, both "Baptized By Fire" and "Purple Haze" were undercut by excess.
Extreme, on the other hand, knew how to get a lot out of a little. Even though this band was only second on the bill, it in many ways gave the evening's top performance. With a songbook offering everything from art rock ("When I'm President") to acoustic balladry ("Song for Love") to ragged funk ("Get the Funk Out"), Extreme was entertaining, imaginative and insinuatingly kinetic.