Edgar Winter: the man behind the Monster
Venue: Koko, London
Frankenstein's creator brings his unwieldy synth to London on the only UK date of a rare European tour
He’s still playing that rock’n’roll; still playing it the way he wants. Edgar Winter carved out his own musical niche in the early 70s, away from the blues path his older brother Johnny had chosen, towards a blend of soul and funk with a sprinkling of glam.
His restless creativity led to his pioneering work with the portable synthesiser, an instrument that still looks pretty unwieldy as he straps it on at the beginning of the second number, Free Ride. But the atmospheric noises he gets out of it are still raw and innovative. These days you could probably pack all that technology into something smaller than a mobile phone, but that’s not quite the point. Edgar defiantly plays it the way he always has. And despite his 68 years he looks pretty much the way he always has too, with white shoulder-length hair and a white beard.
The show is similarly un-reconstituted. After three songs he launches into a slow, grinding Tobacco Road at a pace that would make Vanilla Fudge blush. It turns into a 20-minute tour-de-force as he engages each member of the band in a musical duel, singing increasingly complex musical phrases at them before they reply on guitar, bass and drums respectively. He also plays a freeform sax solo proving that he's lost none of his vocal or multi-instrumental talents, and remains a consummate showman without really showing off.
In between nuggets like Hanging Around, We All Had A Real Good Time, Rock And Roll Hoochie Koo and of course Frankenstein (where he reprises all his multi–instrumental skills) he slips in the country-flavoured The Power Of Positive Drinkin’, an unapologetic look back at his wild youth, and I Got My Eye On You from his just-released album. There’s also a lengthy, meandering Texas jam that takes some inconsequential detours into snippets of Won’t Get Fooled Again, Sunshine Of Your Love and In My Time Of Dyin’ that are frankly more of a distraction than an embellishment.
In contrast the encore cover of Jumping Jack Flash — dedicated to his late, great brother (speaking in the present tense as he declares that Johnny’s spirit will be around at least as long as he is) — takes on a fresh life as he twists the famous riffs to suit his own purposes. They really really don’t make them like Edgar any more.