After six long years it was FINALLY time for yours truly to bask in the glory of BON JOVI live again! And on top of that, the date of this show would just so happen to coincide with A&GS’ birthday. On March 31, four years ago, the website was born. This would be my twelfth time seeing the band and I knew I was in for two and a half hours of greatness. Jon Bon Jovi is one of the hardest working frontmen in all of rock and roll, and that subject is NOT up for debate. Also, new album This House Is Not For Sale was one of my 2016 top picks, so I was very excited to hear tracks from it live.
I was flying solo this evening and was lucky enough to be seated next to a lovely young couple Ricky and Emily, who were YUUUUGE BON JOVI fans like me. We talked and laughed for awhile, and then at 8:30 pm sharp the house lights went down and the band was ready to go.
Opening up with the title track and then “Knockout” from the new album, the boys were in fine form. These guys know how to pace a show and get people going, as was evidenced by “You Give Love a Bad Name” being next, which had the ladies screaming their heads off. A double shot from 2007’s Lost Highway followed in “Lost Highway” and “Whole Lot of Leavin’”, two of my favorites from said disc before another new number was next with “Rollercoaster.”
The band was off and running, and getting into a nice groove. “We Weren’t Born to Follow” was the lone representative from 2009’s The Circle, but now, in these uncertain times, the message resonated more than ever. This segued into “I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead” from waaaaay back in 1992, much to my delight. And THEN, out comes “Runaway”!! Holy ol’ Jesus, I was in heaven, as were my two new concert buddies.
The next three songs were a masterful trifecta for getting a crowd going: “We Got it Goin’ On”, followed by “Who Says You Can’t Go Home”, and “It’s My Life.” I dare you not to sing along to any of those, I fucking dare you. Up to this point everything was picture perfect. We’re ten songs in, Jon and the band are in fine form, and I’m smiling ear to ear because each and every one of these tunes has a special meaning and memory for me.
The Lost Highway stuff was especially good to hear again because I saw that tour twice, and those songs are so cathartic. This was the record that really helped me deal with the loss of my mother in 2007. “We Don’t Run” from 2015’s Burning Bridges kicked off a cavalcade of newer material, and there was just as much venom live as there was on tape with this one.
Jon then took the opportunity to take us into Storytellers mode as he went into detail on how some of the latest record’s songs took shape, something that always gets my attention. “God Bless This Mess” told the tale of getting older, while “Scars On This Guitar” talked about the six string being one of the only women any of us who’ve played in bands can truly count on when the night is over and the crowds are gone. It actually moved me to tears, it was so powerfully done. “New Year’s Day” is a track that I liked on record, but live, especially after hearing the story, it took on a life of its own.
So then Jon goes, “Alright, that’s it. Nothin’ but the hits from here on out!” and then keyboardist David Bryan took us to church with “Lay Your Hands On Me” which was followed by “Born to Be My Baby.” The screams from all the females in the building took me back to the first time I saw the band in 1989.
I found myself smiling while watching so many of them, each and every one beautiful, who probably have grown children now, singing and dancing along to every word and note. And let’s not forget that there were a lot of young, also beautiful women there who probably discovered the band around the time “It’s My Life” came out, which is fine. Either way, I was surrounded by beauty on all sides.
“Have a Nice Day” is a great song from the vastly underrated album of the same name, so it was nice to hear it live before “Bad Medicine” took things over the top. Jon jumped into the crowd and made the rounds for a bit before returning to the stage.
Longtime bassist Hugh McDonald laid it down to usher in a rollickin’ rendition of “Keep the Faith” before the group said goodnight for the first time.
After a few minutes “Raise Your Hands,” long one of my favorite tracks kicked off the encores, and all of us longtime fans went full-on batshit crazy!! The place was rockin’ and ready for more. Jon came out with his acoustic guitar for a little bit of “The Fighter” before they went into “Wanted: Dead or Alive.” This is a tune I sing all the time, so when he asked us to do the first verse I sang it loud and proud, like I’d been doing all night. And then, well then it was time for one more number in “Livin’ On a Prayer” to close the show. Everyone was on their feet and screaming, and I know I’m not alone in wishing they could have played another two hours.
When it was all said and done I was beaming. It was a perfect night for rock and roll and I loved every minute of it. And really, how perfect was it that this show fell on our fourth birthday? Can’t write a better story.
You’d be hard pressed to find a bigger BON JOVI fan than me, with one or two exceptions. Their music, much like JOURNEY’S, has been the soundtrack to all the major parts of my life. I have lived, loved, laughed, and cried to the songs, and they will forever be a part of me. Two and a half hours of the “Story of My Life” is a pretty cool way to spend a Friday night, don’t you think? I hugged my new friends Ricky and Emily goodbye and made my way into the night.
Oh, and for the naysayers out there crying, “Jon can’t hit the notes anymore” or whatever bullshit they’re yammering, they can kick rocks. The man is in his 50’s and still singing his fucking ass off!! Will he hit all the highs from back in the day? Fuck, no!! But that’s what a band, a BAND is. Everyone does their job, and sometimes that means taking on the higher parts on the hooks and harmonies. So what? At the end of the day, did you have a good time?
Well then that’s all that matters, doesn’t it? BON JOVI live is not a concert, it is an experience, a movement, and a Rock and Roll Sermon all rolled into one.
You will laugh, you will cry, and you will feel the music pounding in your chest. Shows like these remind me how lucky I am to do what I do. This band grabs an audience and doesn’t let go. And I for one, can’t wait till they come back to Philly again!
LIVE WORDS: THE MAESTRO
LIVE IMAGES: JACKIE ZAFERATOS/RICKY HOUCK