It’s hard to believe that it’s been four and a half months since I went to a live show but I was able to kick off my 2011 concert season with a trip to Boston to see Bon Jovi in concert this past Tuesday night. I’ll be very honest, I’m not a huge Bon Jovi fan. Back in the ’80s I was, especially from the first album through NEW JERSEY (1988), and I saw them live at the Providence Civic Center on both the SLIPPERY WHEN WET tour (with Cinderella) and the NEW JERSEY tour (with Skid Row). Anything after NEW JERSEY has never been my high priority list although I do have a few of their most recent albums, including THE CIRCLE (2009), and I caught them in concert back on the CRUSH tour in the Summer of 2001. The main reason I went to the concert is because I was taking my wife and Bon Jovi is her favorite Rock band. She has seen the band multiple times over the last few years including seeing the band on their home turf in New Jersey. Bon Jovi is to my wife what KISS is to me and I decided to go with her when tickets went on sale in November 2010…..$177 dollars a piece after all the Ticketmaster fees!
I’ve had the opportunity to see the band on previous tours but I swore off all Bon Jovi shows because of the show I saw in Summer 2001 supporting CRUSH. Nothing kills it for me than cover songs and Bon Jovi ended that concert with a cover of ‘Tequila’ and ‘Twist & Shout’ instead of reaching into their own catalog for something off the first two albums…..’Runaway’ maybe? That show was great until the last two songs and I was so disappointed that I haven’t seen the band live and I’ve been ultra-critical of them since. Eight years is a long time and Bon Jovi is selling out stadiums when many of their contemporaries and peers have trouble selling out theaters so it’s safe to say that they are as popular as they ever have been. My curiosity got the better of me and I got pretty psyched to see the band live after all these years, plus I heard they mix up the setlist from show to show! The concert was billed as “An Evening With Bon Jovi” so there was no opening act but that meant that there could be a possibly longer setlist, maybe a 2 to 3 hour show!
Bon Jovi setlist
Last Man Standing
You Give Love A Bad Name
Born To Be My Baby
We Weren’t Born To Follow
Love’s The Only Rule
Work For The Working Man (cut short due to technical difficulties)
It’s My Life
We Got It Going On
Bad Medicine/Pretty Woman cover
Lay Your Hands On Me (Richie Sambora on vocals)
Hallelujah (Leonard Cohen cover)
I’ll Be There For You
Bed Of Roses
Who Says You Can’t Go Home
I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead/Start Me Up cover
Have A Nice Day
Keep The Faith
Wanted Dead Or Alive
I Love This Town
Livin’ On A Prayer
I have to say, I was pleasantly surprised that I enjoyed myself as much as I did, especially after I didn’t like the THE CIRCLE. The band did play three songs off that album (‘We Weren’t Born To Follow’, ‘Love’s The Only Rule’ & ‘Work For The Working Man’) and got them out of the way quick. The show opened with Jon Bon Jovi on a small stage behind the soundboard at the back of the arena (Paul Stanley style) right in front of us singing ‘Last Man Standing’. After the song, JBJ ran through the crowd (with security) to the stage to kick the frenzy into high gear with the classics ‘You Give Love A Bad Name’ and ‘Born To Be My Baby’. So far, I’m good even though I didn’t know one word to ‘Last Man Standing’. I knew ‘We Weren’t Born To Follow’ and ‘Lost Highway’ but not ‘Love’s The Only Rule’ (from THE CIRCLE) but all three songs sounded pretty good live so I made a mental note to revisit THE CIRCLE to see if I the album might benefit from a fresh listen and a note to find the LOST HIGHWAY (2007) album at a cheap price. The show was basically going along fine, and the band sounded pretty good, until they launched into another CIRCLE song ‘Work For The Working Man’. The band got maybe 15-20 seconds in and you heard a big “pop” and there was no sound. Either the speakers went or something happened at the board but the arena, save for maybe the people up front, heard nothing. Of course the band played on being able to hear themselves through their in-ear monitors but they stopped halfway through and left the stage. After about 5 to 10 minutes, the band returned to massive cheers and kicked the show into high gear with ‘It’s My Life’.
One of my personal highlights was ‘Runaway’, the band could play anything off the first two albums and I’d be happy even though I’d prefer ‘She Don’t Know Me’ from the first record. I also was psyched to hear ‘Just Older’ from CRUSH, an album I really enjoyed when it came out. ‘We Got It Going On’ sounded decent and the crowd seemed to like it (another reason to check out LOST HIGHWAY) and then it was a double shot of NEW JERSEY tracks ‘Bad Medicne’ and ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’. ‘Bad Medicine’ is a trademark Bon Jovi classic so I would have preferred a more rocking performance without the cover of Roy Orbison’s ‘Pretty Woman’ attached. ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’ is one of my favorite Bon Jovi songs so I was psyched to hear it but Richie Sambora took over the lead vocals while Jon went backstage for a quick break. A well-deserved one too because JBJ was all over the stage and sounded great vocally. I was a little disappointed with Richie’s vocal on ‘Lay Your Hands On Me’, maybe it’s age but his voice wasn’t as strong as I’d remembered. Actually, Richie’s trademark background vocals on many of the songs during the show weren’t really that great. The other thing is that the youthful fire that the original songs had seemed a bit dim live this show, maybe it’s because the band has gone on a different direction musically over the years? Mybe it’s because the band has matured a lot more since 1986-1988? It just seemed like the classic songs from SLIPPERY WHEN WET and NEW JERSEY lacked some of that energy and seemed to follow the sound of the newer songs. After Richie was done, Jon returned to sing ‘Hallelujah’, the Leonard Cohen cover that I think was on a live DVD the band released recently. It’s a good song and JBJ does a decent job but all I can think of is Shrek!
I’m not big into Bon Jovi ballads so ‘I’ll Be There For You’ and ‘Bed Of Roses’ were boring for me but the throngs of ladies and Bon Jovi diehards (mostly women) seemed to enjoy them, the songs sounded decent live. Including ‘Bed Of Roses’, the next six songs were from the KEEP THE FAITH (1992) and HAVE A NICE DAY (2005) albums, both of which I don’t own. I always liked ‘Who Says You Can’t Go Home’ and that was one of the “newer” songs I was hoping to hear, ‘I’ll Sleep When I’m Dead’ got the crowd going but I didn’t know it…..I liked the cover of The Rolling Stones’ ‘Start Me Up’ attached to it better than the actual song! ‘Have A Nice Day’ is another “newer” Bon Jovi tune I knew and wanted to hear, very catchy and came off good live, same with the other title track ‘Keep The Faith’. The encore started with the slow ‘Dry County’ off KEEP THE FAITH which I thought was a weird way to kick off an encore but it fit as the band pushed into the classic ‘Wanted Dead Or Alive’, with Rchie’s subpar vocals. ‘I Love This Town’ surprised me and now LOST HIGHWAY is on my Want List because every song I heard live from that album sounded great and , of course no show would be complete with out Bon Jovi’s signature anthem, ‘Livin’ On A Prayer’.
Overall, I had a good time and I kind of feel bad that I’ve given Bon Jovi the cold shoulder when it comes to picking up some of the last few records and seeing them in concert. I enjoyed hearing the classic songs from the ’80s, although some could use some more energy and power like on the records, but I think the “newer” songs were the best of the night. I’m definitely going to have to get out to the record store and try to acquire KEEP THE FAITH, HAVE A NICE DAY and LOST HIGHWAY because every song sounded great. I’m a little surprised the band didn’t take a track from THESE DAYS (1995) or BOUNCE (2002) because the band usually represents every album live…..except for 7800 FAHRENHEIT (1985)! Can anyone tell me why they ignore 7800 FAHRENHEIT every tour? That was a great album and I would guarantee that I would see the band in concert again if they played ‘In And Out Of Love’ or ‘Tokyo Road’. That said, Bon Jovi put on a solid show and I had a surprisingly good time.